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Palestinians slam FIFA for chief’s ban over Messi incitement

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) The Palestinian soccer federation is lashing out at FIFA for banning its chief from games for a year for inciting against superstar Lionel Messi as part of his campaign to stop Argentina’s national team from playing in Israel.

The Palestine Football Association says Saturday the decision by international soccer’s ruling body was “absurd and lacking in evidence.” FIFA says Jibril Rajoub “incited hatred and violence” by calling on soccer fans “to target the Argentinian Football Association and burn jerseys and pictures of Lionel Messi.”

Argentina eventually abandoned the trip to Jerusalem for a game against Israel in June. Argentina Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said at the time players felt “totally attacked, violated” after images emerged of the team’s white and sky-blue striped jerseys stained with red paint resembling blood.

Palestinian soccer head banned for inciting Messi hatred

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has banned the head of the Palestinian Football Association from attending soccer games for a year for inciting hatred and violence toward Lionel Messi.

Jibril Rajoub called on Arab soccer fans to burn Messi posters and shirts if he participated in an Argentina game in Israel in June. It led to Argentina canceling the World Cup warmup match.

FIFA’s disciplinary committee cited comments by the Palestinian FA president “calling on football fans to target the Argentinian Football Association and burn jerseys and pictures of Lionel Messi.”

Rajoub is banned from attending any football matches in an official capacity for 12 months from Friday.

Argentina cancels Israel friendly after threats to Messi

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Argentina has reportedly canceled its friendly versus Israel in Jerusalem this weekend as political protests contributed to an air of hostility around the match.

Palestinian supporters were angry that the match was set to be played at Teddy Stadium, which they say was built on a destroyed Palestinian village.

Palestine Football Association leader Jibril Rajoub had called upon Messi not to play in the match, Argentina’s final friendly before the World Cup in Russia.

Rajoub also called upon fans to burn Lionel Messi jerseys and pictures of the player if he took the field on Saturday. Threats were made against the team and star player Messi, as well.

Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain said of the cancelation, “They finally did the right thing.”

The Albiceleste begins its tournament June 16 against Iceland.

Sepp Blatter’s “mission of peace”: FIFA president trying to solve soccer problems between Israel and Palestine

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The self-proclaimed “godfather of women’s soccer” is bringing his expertise to foreign relations.

On the list of people who can bring a sense of peace to the Middle East, I’d place Sepp Blatter somewhere near the bottom.

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But that hasn’t stop FIFA’s head honcho from claiming he’s the man for the job, at least when it comes to tensions between Israel and Palestine.

It will not be easy. Palestine has asked that Israel be suspended from FIFA, claiming that “Israeli security restrictions are limiting movement of Palestinian players, visiting teams and soccer equipment.”

From the Associated Press:

But Blatter, who fashions himself as a peacemaker, said he hoped to reach a quick solution to the crisis and perhaps even spark further cooperation between the sides.

“Football is more than a game. Football has the power to connect people. Football has the power to construct bridges,” he said. “Football shall unite people and not divide people.”

Israel has rejected the Palestinian bid as an attempt to politicize sports. Eini said his organization has done its best to assist Palestinian soccer and will continue to do so, but that many issues were beyond its control and needed to be resolved at a political level.

Blatter is against the vote, and has proposed a solution: a “peace match” in Zurich between the two sides. This, to some, will seem insane. And by some, we mean many. For what it’s worth, Israel accepted the offer.

It’s a political story, so we won’t go any further. But if Sepp Blatter honestly believes he can use soccer to bridge the gap between Palestine and Israel, well, that’s something even wilder than proposing women’s players wear tighter shorts.

Asian Cup roundup: Japan cruises past Palestine, Iraq outlasts Jordan (video)

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The Group D favorites prevailed early Monday morning in Australia, though one had to work a heck of a lot longer than the other.

Let’s not waste any more time with introductions. To the games:

Japan 4-0 Palestine

Palestine knew there was a gulf between their side and reigning Asian Cup champion Japan, and the titleholders showed them how wide it was on Monday in Australia.

Yasuhito Endo, Shinji Okazaki, Keisuke Honda and Maya Yoshida all scored as Japan thumped Palestine 4-0 to move atop Group D with the biggest rout of the young tournament.

[ ASIAN CUP: Friday | Saturday | Sunday ]

Japan is FIFA’s 54th-ranked nation, while Palestine is No. 115, and it took the underdogs a long time to adjust to the challenge. That’s not a slight on the Palestine side, whose last six matches were against China, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India (They won three of those and drew one).

Compare that to Japan’s 3W-1L mark in its last four against much tougher competition — Brazil, Jamaica, Honduras and Australia — and it’s easy to see this was a tall ask for Palestine. You can see from the highlights below, Japan had a lot of time to work.

Iraq 1-0 Jordan

The Lions of Mesopotamia kept knocking on the door, and eventually entered the Jordan goal.

Yaser Kasim’s deflected 77th minute goal, after a great individual move in the 18, gave the favorites their breakthrough, and an 84th minute second yellow to Jordan’s Anas Bani Yaseen helped put the three points in the bank.

Iraq had a lot of the possession, and underdogs Jordan will be upset to not have stolen a point.

Tuesday’s Fixtures

GROUP A
Midnight ET — Kuwait vs. South Korea
2am ET — Oman vs. Australia