A friendly match between Argentina and Israel’s soccer teams, which was supposed to take place this Saturday at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem with the participation of Argentina star Lionel Messi, will be canceled, Argentine media reported on Tuesday evening.
According to reports, the cancellation of the game was a result of Palestinian Arab pressure which was expressed in demonstrations in Argentina and in protest outside the place where the Argentina team held its training camp in Barcelona.
Some of the public pressure against the game came from Israel as well. 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.
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.
Speaking at a news conference in Ramallah, Rajoub told journalists he had written to Argentina’s government asking that Messi not take part in a June 9 friendly against Israel.
“This match has become a political tool,” he said in Arabic, adding, “The Israeli government is trying to give it political significance by insisting it be held in Jerusalem.”
The organizers of the June 9 game announced several weeks ago that the that the game would be played in Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium instead of at the Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa, despite the fact that it can hold more fans.
“Messi is a symbol of peace and love,” Rajoub said. “We ask him not to participate in laundering the crimes of the occupation.”
Messi, he added, “has tens of millions of fans in the Arab and Muslim countries… we ask everyone to burn their shirts which bear his name and posters (with his image).”
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev on Tuesday evening asked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to speak with the president of Argentina and ask him to intervene to prevent the cancellation of the friendly soccer game.