It's official: Argentina-Israel soccer game cancelled

Israeli embassy in Argentina confirms friendly match scheduled for this Saturday has been cancelled, cites threats to star Lionel Messi.

Elad Benari,

Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi
Reuters

The Israeli embassy in Argentina officially announced on Tuesday night that the friendly match scheduled for this Saturday between the national soccer teams of Argentina and Israel has been cancelled.

"The threats and provocations against Lionel Messi, which logically raised fears against holding the game, are not foreign to the daily lives of the Israeli population, whose athletes have often been the target of violence and terror attacks," the embassy said in a series of tweets.

Reports in Argentina on Tuesday night said the match was cancelled earlier following Palestinian Arab pressure on the Argentine team not to play in Jerusalem.

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud) later spoke with the organizer of the friendly.

Regev’s office said in a statement following the meeting that she had been told that ever since the Argentine national team announced it would play in Israel, various terrorist organizations have been sending messages and threats to the team’s players and their families, with explicit threats to harm their lives and their family's lives. Among other things, the players were sent videos and pictures of children's bodies.

Minister Regev said, "I hope that Argentina's players will not succumb to the terror threats and to the BDS organizations."

Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie responded to the reports that the soccer match had been cancelled.

Faurie, speaking to reporters in Washington on the sidelines of the Organization of American States meeting, would not confirm the game had been axed, but added he believed players had been reluctant to travel to Israel for the game.

"As far as I know, the players of the national team were not willing to play the game," Faurie said, according to AFP.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with Argentine President Mauricio Macri following the cancellation of the game, but officials in the Prime Minister's Office said that Macri informed Netanyahu that he has no influence on the decision whether or not to hold the game as scheduled.

Earlier this week, Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub called on Messi not to play in the Argentina-Israel game in Jerusalem, urging fans to burn their shirts if he does.

On Tuesday night, Rajoub welcomed the cancellation of the friendly game.

"The Palestinian FA thanks Argentina's players led by star Messi for refusing to be used to serve a non-sporting goal. Values, morals and sport have secured a victory today and a red card was raised at Israel through the cancellation of the game,” he said.

Some of the pressure to cancel the game also came from within Israel: Last Friday, MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) met the Argentinean ambassador to Israel and ask his country to reconsider the Argentina team's appearance in Jerusalem.

"I stressed that the game, in the wake of the killing of the Palestinians in Gaza and the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, sends a dangerous message to the Israeli government that the world ignores its gross human rights violations. Messi cannot turn his back on the Palestinian victims," said Jabareen.








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