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Palestinian football chief calls ban for Messi comments

A planned pre-World Cup friendly between Argentina and Israel sparked a furious response from the Palestinians © AFP / HAZEM BADER

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territory, Occupied, Sep 3The head of the Palestinian football association pledged to appeal Monday against FIFA’s 12-month ban for comments made about Lionel Messi, calling it an “unjust and political decision.”

FIFA last month banned Jibril Rajoub from attending matches for a year and fined him 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,600, 17,700 euros) for “inciting hatred and violence” after calling on fans to burn pictures and jerseys of Messi in the build-up to a friendly game with Israel.

Rajoub had demanded that Barcelona star Messi not take part in the pre-World Cup friendly against Israel scheduled for June 9 and called on fans to burn shirts bearing his name if he did.

The game was later cancelled after Argentina withdrew.

In his first press conference since the ban was announced, Rajoub denied wrongdoing.

“This is an unjust and political decision, an Israeli decision,” he said, pointing out the complaint came from the Israeli FA, not the Argentinians.

“Of course we respect the FIFA committees and will continue to respect them and abide by their decisions. On this basis we have decided to appeal and we will continue our efforts to fight the injustice occurring against the Palestinian union and the Palestinian players.”

“We had hoped that FIFA would work to end the suffering of Palestinian athletes,” he added.

FIFA last year dropped a complaint by the Palestinian FA over football played in a number of Israeli settlements inside the occupied Palestinian territories.

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