The head of the Palestinian Authority (PA) soccer federation said on Saturday he will appeal FIFA’s year-long ban on him for inciting fans against Argentine superstar Lionel Messi.
Speaking to The Associated Press, Rajoub said he was consulting with his lawyers and will “use every possible opportunity” to fight the decision. He spoke by phone from China and said he was planning a press conference upon his return to Ramallah later this week.
The PA soccer associated lashed out at the decision by international soccer’s ruling body as biased and “absurd.”
FIFA announced the suspension on Friday, saying Rajoub “incited hatred and violence” by calling 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.
The match was eventually cancelled, with the Argentinian team citing threats against Messi as the reason.
FIFA stated that "The Disciplinary Committee has sanctioned the President of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), Jibril Rajoub, with a 12-month match suspension and a fine of CHF 20,000 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 federation added.
On Friday, after the suspension was announced, Rajoub blamed Israel, claiming the suspension was caused by “unilateral media reports in addition to misinformation from right-wing organizations in Israel.”
Rajoub, along with several anti-Israel organizations, has in the past 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.
Last October, FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced his organization would not intervene in the issue and that it considers the matter closed.
Rajoub later accused FIFA of caving to Israeli pressure, saying Infantino “did not deal appropriately” with his complaints against Israel.
Earlier this year, Rajoub was filmed as he verbally confronted Border Police officers at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron, telling one of them to "shut up, go to hell."