FIFA Suspends Palestinian Football Chief Jibril Rajoub for 'Inciting Violence'

Year-long suspension comes after Rajoub called on 'football fans to target the Argentinian Football Association and burn jerseys of Lionel Messi,' soccer’s governing body said

Palestinian football chief Jibril Rajoub during the 65th FIFA Congress on May 29, 2015 in Zurich

Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub has been suspended for a year from soccer matches on Friday, and fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,300) by the FIFA disciplinary board.

The suspension came is in light of calls by Rajoub to burn the jerseys of Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi ahead of his national team's expected match against Israel in June, which was eventually cancelled.

Rajoub “incited hatred and violence” by calling on “football fans to target the Argentinian Football Association and burn jerseys and pictures of Lionel Messi,” soccer’s governing body said.

Justifying the cancellation the game, Argentina Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said that the players felt “totally attacked, violated” after images emerged of Argentina’s white and sky-blue striped jerseys stained with red paint that resembled blood following Rajoub’s comments.

FIFA imposed the minimum ban allowed in its disciplinary code for inciting hatred or violence. It prevents Rajoub from attending matches or engaging with the media at or near stadiums on matchdays for a year from Friday.

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The ban will apply for the 2019 Asian Cup in United Arab Emirates, which kicks off in January, and likely include the start of the 2022 World Cup qualifying program.

Rajoub is able to continue his day-to-day work running the federation and attend FIFA meetings. He has been a constant thorn in the side of soccer’s governing body as he tries to get sanctions imposed on Israel.

At the annual FIFA Congress, Rajoub regularly addresses soccer nations to demand Israel be punished for restricting movement of Palestinian players, and for forming teams in West Bank settlements. Israel has rejected the Palestinian campaign as an attempt to politicize sports and has cited security concerns as the reason behind the occasional restrictions placed on Palestinian players, particularly in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Israel’s plan to stage the Argentina game in Jerusalem also incensed Rajoub because the stadium that was to host the match is situated in a neighborhood built on the site of a former Palestinian village destroyed during the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.