PA soccer chief urges Spanish team not to play in Jerusalem

Jibril Rajoub pressuring Atlético Madrid to cancel game in Jerusalem as he is being treated at an Israeli hospital.

Elad Benari,

Jibril Rajoub
Jibril Rajoub
Reuters

The head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, is exerting heavy political pressure on the Atlético Madrid team and calling on it to cancel its visit to Israel for a game with Beitar Jerusalem in less than two weeks.

At the same time, Rajoub is receiving medical services from Israel: On Wednesday he was evacuated to the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv for urgent medical treatment.

According to a Channel 12 News report on Thursday, Rajoub sent a letter to the Spanish team and wrote that the game in which it will participate will take place in what he called "occupied Palestine."

Rajoub also threatened the group with possible sanctions and appeals to international courts if it decided to participate in a game in Israel.

The Spanish club is, so far, unfazed by Rajoub. Idan Ofer, one of the group's owners, said that "Atlético will play in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. Sport is supposed to bridge between peoples and people and not to separate them."

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev responded on Thursday to Rajoub’s call on the Spanish team not to play in Israel.

"Once again, Jibril Rajoub removes the mask and exposes his true face. He has to receive a red card and be distanced from sports fields permanently. Such people pollute sport and its importance as a bridge between nations," Regev said.

Rajoub in the past has attempted to force FIFA to ban six Israeli teams based in Judea and Samaria. He claims that their presence there is in breach of FIFA statutes, which forbids another member association playing on another territory without permission.

After FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced his organization would not intervene in the issue, Rajoub accused FIFA of caving to Israeli pressure.

More recently, Rajoub was suspended for a year from FIFA for inciting hatred and violence, after he called on soccer fans to target the Argentinian Soccer Association and burn jerseys and pictures of Lionel Messi when he was scheduled to play a friendly game in Israel.




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