FIFA opens disciplinary proceedings against Palestinian football boss
AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi
FIFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Palestinian Football Association (PFA) President Jibril Rajoub over statements he made during the lead-up to a planned exhibition match between Israel and Argentina that was eventually cancelled.
Ahead of the match, which was set to be held on June 9 in Jerusalem, Rajoub had urged superstar Argentine captain Lionel Messi not to play in the game and called on Arab and Muslim fans to burn posters and jerseys bearing his name if he did.
The Israel Football Association accused its Palestinian counterpart of "football terror" in pressuring Argentinian players and staff into cancelling the match and vowed to file a complaint to FIFA.
Israeli ministers claimed that "terror groups" had made direct threats on the lives of Argentina's players and their families. But Rajoub insisted that opposition to the match stemmed solely from its politicization by relocating it from its originally planned location in Haifa to the disputed holy city of Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, FIFA member nations voted 82% to 18% against a proposal put forth by Rajoub to sanction and suspend the Israel Football Association from FIFA claiming the Jewish State violates human rights.
"This is a recurring ritual in which Rajoub attempts to lead FIFA decisions against our football [teams] and against the State of Israel," Israel Football Association Chairman Ofer Eini said of the vote.
"Thanks to proper and thoughtful work, we succeeded in explaining to FIFA members what the motivating factor behind these apparently innocent suggestions are, and that the person suggesting them has crossed every red line," he said.
"We have a true friend in FIFA...and therefore Rajoub fails time after time. Israeli football will continue to be part of the international community, and the State of Israel will continue to enjoy support in the world football association."
Before the Argentine Football Association (AFO) officially cancelled the exhibition match, the Israeli embassy in Argentina had announced the "suspension" of the sold-out game because of what it called "threats and provocations" against Messi.
Argentine Football Association (AFO) head Chqui Tapai described the cancellation of the match as "a contribution to world peace."
"It's my responsibility to take care of the health and physical integrity of the entire delegation," Tapai said.
Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie had said that players had been reluctant to participate in the match, referencing a protest that saw Argentina jerseys stained with red paint meant to resemble blood displayed outside the team's practice facility in Barcelona.
ULTIMO MOMENTO // Otro papelón de la AFA: Israel-Argentina en Jerusalén, suspendido en medio de temores por la seguridad. El encuentro estaba programado para el sábado. Más temprano había habido una protesta frente al predio donde se entrena Argentina en Barcelona. pic.twitter.com/zK19S23Zw1— Fabián Destefano (@faymdq) June 5, 2018
Protesters said the display was meant to be representative of Israeli crimes against Palestinians, and not a threat against Argentina's players.
Players nonetheless expressed relief at the decision, with Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain telling ESPN: “In the end, they’ve done right thing, and this is behind us. Health and common sense come first. We felt that it wasn’t right to go.”
The decision was applauded by Palestinians, with Rajoub calling it a "red card from everybody to the Israelis", while Israel branded it a surrender to hate.
Israeli organizers of the match even speculated that the cancellation had been orchestrated by Qatar and Turkey, as Israeli officials squabbled over who was to blame.
The World Cup warm-up appearance in Jerusalem had been hotly opposed by Palestinians, who claim the eastern part of the city, annexed by Israel, as the capital of their future state while Israel considers the entire city its own "indivisible" capital.
The Argentina about-turn came amid fierce criticism of the Israeli army over the use of lethal force against Palestinian protesters on the Gaza Strip border during weekly mass protests held since March 30.
Outrage has mounted at the deaths of at least 125 Palestinians on the frontier since the protests began, though Israel maintains it only uses live fire according to strict regulations and in order to protect its border.
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One year suspension and if new offense of ANY kind, EXPULSION.
This is the result of the support given to terrorism by the West.
Everything about Palestinian is terror and threat. They are not ready for Peace