By owolabi Abiola/First Zeal Media
In a hard-hitting ruling that could well enflame tension in the region but will be viewed by others as a logical move, FIFA has handed outspoken Palestinian FA leader Jibril Rajoub a one-year match ban and fined him 20,000 Swiss francs for inflammatory remarks made against Lionel Messi.
Just before the World Cup, FIFA announced it was taking disciplinary action against the tub-thumping Rajoub after he called on fans to burn pictures and shirts of the Argentine superstar if he played in a warmup friendly against Israel in Jerusalem.
The fixture was originally scheduled for Haifa but Palestinian sympathisers were infuriated by Israel’s provocative decision to switch it to disputed Jerusalem and, specifically, to the Teddy Kollek Stadium which is built on land that, according to Palestinians, was a village destroyed in 1948.
Messi, Rajoub said at a June 3 press conference, “has tens of millions of fans in the Arab and Muslim countries… we ask everyone to burn their shirts which bear his name and posters.”
The match ultimately never took place when it was called off by Argentina’s own federation despite an appeal from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his opposite number Mauricio Macri.
In a statement today, FIFA said its Disciplinary Committee had sanctioned Rajoub for breaching article 53 (Inciting hatred and violence) of the FIFA disciplinary code “following media statements he gave calling on football fans to target the Argentinian Football Association and burn jerseys and pictures of Lionel Messi.”
“The Disciplinary Committee held that Mr Rajoub’s statements incited hatred and violence, and consequently imposed the above-mentioned sanctions.
“The 12-month match suspension imposed on Mr Rajoub entails a ban on taking part in any future match or competition taking place during the given period. Consequently, Mr Rajoub will not be able to attend football matches or competitions in any official capacity, which includes, among others, participating in media activities at stadiums or in their vicinity on matchdays