Israel Angry over Argentina’s Cancellation of Football Match

Israel Angry over Argentina’s Cancellation of Football Match

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli last week aired misgivings about having to travel to Israel, noting he preferred to remain in Barcelona, where the team is holding its pre-World Cup training camp.

The Albiceleste begin their World Cup campaign against Iceland on June 16.

Israel was eagerly awaiting the sold-out worldwide friendly scheduled for Saturday night at Jerusalem's Teddy Kollek Stadium and the arrival of some of the world's best players.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem its capital, while Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as capital of their own state.

The head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub had urged Palestinians to burn photos and jerseys of Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi if the game was played.

The decision was widely celebrated by pro-Palestinian supporters and human rights advocates, with thousands taking to social media to express their support for the Latin American country's decision to heed their pleas.

Some waved tops of the Argentina's national team stained with fake blood.

"I think it's a good thing that the match between Argentina and Israel was suspended", Argentina soccer federation vice president Hugo Moyano told ESPN Radio 10. "We felt that it wasn't right to go".

"The decision to cancel the game stems from one reason only: threats by terror elements sent to (Lionel) Messi and his family and other players on the team", Miri Regev said. Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain announced on Tuesday it was cancelled. On Tuesday, the BDS demonstrators arrived wearing bloodied Argentine team shirts and called on the players to boycott the game.

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After news of the cancellation broke this morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Argentinian President Mauricio Macri requesting his intervention, but Macri responded that he had no authority over the decision.

Argentina will now finalise their preparations for the trip to Russian Federation from their Spanish base in Barcelona.

The Palestinian Football Association issued a statement saying it "congratulates the Argentine players led by the stars Messi and the rest of the players who refused to serve as a bridge to achieving unsportsmanlike goals".

Initially set to be held in Haifa, the Israeli government moved the match to the Jerusalem village, offering the organisers $760,000 in compensation.

The Argentina about-turn comes at a time of fierce criticism of the Israeli army over the use of lethal force against Palestinian protesters on the Gaza Strip border with the Jewish state.

The press in Argentina and Israel reported that the Argentine Football Association was supposed to receive a payment of between two and three million dollars if Messi played.

According to Barghouti, the match "was all part of the Israeli apartheid regime's sports-washing policy to use worldwide sporting events to cover up its war crimes and egregious human rights violations against Palestinians".

"We thank all liberals among sport people and all those who stood by us to demand the cancellation of the match between Argentina and the occupation in Jerusalem".

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday slammed the Argentina national football team over the cancellation of a planned friendly against Israel in Jerusalem, calling it a surrender to hate.

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