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FIFA to Punish Palestinian Soccer Chief for Threatening Lionel Messi

Soccer’s governing body will be taking as yet undefined disciplinary steps against Jibril Rajoub, Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), for threatening Lionel Messi, the star of the Argentinian national team. Rajoub had urged Palestinians to burn pictures and jerseys of Messi ahead of a highly-anticipated friendly match against the Israeli national team in Jerusalem, which was subsequently canceled. Pro-Palestinian protesters also demonstrated outside the Argentinian team’s practice facilities in Spain, displaying jerseys covered in fake blood. In response, Israeli Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev called Rajoub a terrorist and said she felt vindicated by the decision. Regev contends that the match was nixed because of threats against Messi, whereas others charge that it was due to her insistence to move the game from Haifa to Jerusalem. Earlier this week, FIFA’s World Congress rejected a PFA request to amend its constitution by including language seemingly targeting Israel. In a vote of 156 opposed to 35 in favor, members struck down the proposed amendment calling for the suspension or expulsion from FIFA of countries that fail to “recognize, respect, protect, guarantee and defend human rights in accordance with international standards.” Meanwhile, on the pitch, the World Cup kicked off in Russia Thursday, with neither the Israeli nor Palestinian teams having qualified.

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