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Iran’s football federation chief walks out of FIFA event over Israeli presence

FIFA President Gianni Infantino addresses the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, Thailand on May 17, 2024.

The president of the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI) has walked out of an annual congress meeting of the world’s football governing body, FIFA, in support of Palestinians suffering Israel’s months-long war on Gaza.

Mehdi Taj and his associates left FIFA’s annual congress meeting in Thailand’s capital of Bangkok on Friday as they called for the suspension of Israel and the regime’s representatives from all football activities at all levels.

Taj said the protest took place during the statements of the representative of the Israeli regime and that several other representatives, including from Iraq and Lebanon, also left the congress in condemnation of the illegal entity.

Mehdi Taj (L), the president of the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, meets FIFA President Gianni Infantino in Sydney, Australia on Aug. 19, 2023.

“Yesterday, I told the presidents of the Algerian and Palestinian federations that if the representative of the Zionist regime wants to speak, we should leave the meeting in protest… As soon as the representative of the Zionist regime entered and when he wanted to provide explanations, my colleagues and I left the hall. The representative of Iraq and the representatives of Lebanon, Mozambique and Algeria also left right after us,” Taj said.

“We left the congress hall because we do not recognize the Zionist regime. My belief is that the Zionist regime should be banned from all football activities and this should include its representatives in all levels of football at the club, national and managerial levels,” he added. “We, on the right side of history, do not forget millions of oppressed people [in Palestine].”

During FIFA’s annual congress in Thailand, Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub stressed that Israel had committed multiple “systematic” violations of FIFA statutes as well as flagrant breach of human rights in Gaza.

“The Palestinian people, including the Palestinian football family, are enduring an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe,” Rajoub said. “We are witnessing a live televised genocide happening in Gaza.”

Calling for sanctions against Israel over the ongoing brutal war on Gaza, Rajoub said he had been threatened because of his sanctions proposal.

“The Israeli minister of foreign affairs has made serious threats to imprison me if I do not withdraw this proposal, but no power in the world can stand in the way of truth,” he added.

He urged the Congress to take a vote to suspend the Israel Football Association (IFA) from all football activity and to respect the Palestinian territory.

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