The Palestine Football Association (PFA) accused FIFA of colluding with Israel and right wing Israeli groups on Saturday, following FIFA’s decision to ban its head, Jibril Rajoub, from attending FIFA games for one year for allegedly inciting hatred and violence against Argentinian player Lionel Messi.
Global soccer body FIFA said on Friday its disciplinary committee considered Rajoub’s statements “incited hatred and violence”. It banned him for 12 months and fined him 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,000).
Rajoub, it said, was banned from “taking part in any future match or competition taking place during the given period”. That included attending matches in any official capacity and participating in media activities at or near stadiums on match days, it added.
Rajoub had given media statements calling on football fans to target the Argentinian Football Association and burn jerseys and pictures of Lionel Messi.
Palestinians had strongly opposed holding a pre-World Cup friendly match between Argentina and Israel in Jerusalem. The match was originally scheduled to be held in Haifa, northern Israel, but Palestinians accused Israel of using the game for political ends by moving it to occupied Jerusalem. The game was eventually cancelled after the Argentinean team said it would not play in Israel.
The PFA said it “expresses its utmost surprise” at the decision by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee, “which, surprisingly enough, was communicated to the media before the official notification reached the Palestine Football Association.”
“This fact, among others, makes it clear to us, as it has been since the disciplinary procedure was initiated on the 29th of May, at a request of the Israeli Football Association and some settler extremist group, nonetheless, that there has been a predisposition to ban General Rajoub from football activities for a long time,” the PFA said.
They added that the committee’s decision was based “on the allegations of interest groups”, one of which is the Israeli Football Association, which is in legal conflict with the PFA, “and another entity representing an extremist settler group that resides illegally in the Palestinian occupied territories” that based its accusations on media statements by Rajoub to Lebanese media in 2013.
“With regard to the alleged threats to Lionel Messi, we question the legality of a third party acting on behalf of Messi who did not file a complaint himself, neither did the Argentinian football Association,” said the PFA.
“The decision itself admits that the members of the Committee decided on the basis of their personal convictions in application of art. 97 par. 3 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code’, and not on the various types of proof requested by the legal representation of General Rajoub. The Committee, in its decision, admittedly ‘took note’ that the evidence requested by the legal representation were not looked into.”
The PFA added: “We are surprised by the speed at which FIFA was quick to convict the President of the Palestine FA, and how difficult it remains for FIFA to guarantee the right to play freely, safely, and without hindrance to the children of Palestine.”
It reaffirmed “its commitment to law and procedure, and its respect to the institutions of FIFA,” adding that “we also retain our right to pursue this issue to the last possible legal venue.”