A Muslim footballer was fined by the Spanish Football Federation Friday for uncovering a T-shirt with the word 'Palestine' written on it in several languages after he scored a goal in the Spanish Cup.
Sevilla's Malian international striker Frederic Kanoute was reprimanded for lifting his shirt in what he said he had to do as an act of support for Palestinians in Gaza where an Israeli assault has claimed at least 800 lives since it began on Dec. 27.
"It was something that I felt that I should do. Everyone should feel a bit responsible when there is such a big injustice. I am 100 percent responsible for what I did and I don't care about the sanction," he told the television station Telecinco on Thursday.
Federation rules prevent players from displaying any sort of publicity or slogan during matches. The federation did not reveal the amount of the fine but Spanish media said it was between €2,000 and 3,000 ($2,700 and 4,000).
The federation said it was not penalizing the political nature of the message but the fact that the player had displayed a message in violation of the rules. The incident happened after he scored a goal during his team's 2-1 win over Deportivo La Coruna in the Spanish Cup.
France-born Kanoute, a Sevilla player since a 2005 move from English Premiership side Tottenham, is a Muslim who has supported various humanitarian causes in the past.
In 2006 he set up a foundation to help orphans in Mali and the following year he reportedly spent around €500,000 ($700,000) of his own money to save a privately owned mosque in Seville from being sold after a contract to use the premises by the local Muslim population had expired.
Raphael Schultz, Israel's ambassador in Madrid, told Radio Marca on Thursday that Kanoute's gesture "had gone beyond his profession and FIFA rules to this respect."
"I saw the match and the T-shirt bore nothing more than the name of Palestine. It was not an incitement against Israel. I don't think it extolled violence," Schultz said.
Meanwhile, Palestine embassy official Mahmoud Aluanen told the same station that Kanoute "has shown himself to be a very brave person to support our people at a public event."
"Sportsmen are human beings and cannot contain their feelings. They have all the right in the world to express their opinion about matters which contravene human rights. I'm sure that all Palestinian children, those who love football, will be happy about this gesture," Aluanen added.
Sportsmen are human beings and cannot contain their feelings. They have all the right in the world to express their opinion about matters which contravene human rights. I'm sure that all Palestinian children, those who love football, will be happy about this gesture
Palestinian embassy official