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Argentina Cancels Soccer Friendly In Israel After Threats To Messi

By Fitzgerald Cecilio
on Jun 07, 2018 09:05 AM EDT
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Lionel Messi
Argentina has decided to cancel a friendly match with Israel due to threats directed at Lionel Messi. The match was supposed to serve as Argentina’s final preparation for the World Cup. (Photo : SH10Comps | YouTube)

The football friendly match between Argentina and Israel will not push through on Saturday, June 9. Argentina national football team decided to cancel the friendly showdown with Israel due to escalation of violence and threats directed at its captain, Lionel Messi.

The friendly match was scheduled to be played at Teddy Kollek Stadium, which was erected on land where a Palestinian village was formerly situated. The village was destroyed in 1948.

Before this development, Argentina has made four pre-World Cup trips to Israel since 1986. The visit was supposed to happen days before the World Cup in Russia, where Argentina is one of the major contenders for the title.

However, many organizations and personalities have protested against the friendly match, led by Palestinian Football Federation chief Jibril Rajoub and ambassador of Palestine in Argentina, Husni Abdel Wahed.

Rajoub recently urged Arab and Muslim fans to support Palestine's outcry by burning photos and T-shirts of Messi. Abdel Wahed, for his part, publicly spoke out against the friendly match.

For Abdel Wahed, the friendly match was part of Israel's 70th anniversary celebration since its establishment in 1948, where many Palestinians displaced from their homes. Also, Abdel Wahed added that the holding of the friendly match in Jerusalem is unacceptable since it will be played on occupied territory.

Argentina Welcomes Suspension

For his part, Argentine Football Association vice president Hugo Moyano welcomed the suspension, saying it was the right thing to do.

"It's not worth it," Moyano says, adding that the move could also spare the players and their families from any worry.

In an interview with ESPN, Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain confirmed that the friendly match has already been postponed due to political pressure.

"They've finally done the right thing," Higuain says.

There were reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to convince Argentinian President Mauricio Macri not to postpone the team's visit. However, a diplomatic official who requested anonymity said the possibility of the friendly match pushing through is very slim.

Argentina was supposed to use the friendly match as preparation before it opens its World Cup stint against Iceland on June 16.

Palestinians Celebrate Cancellation

Upon hearing the news of the friendly match's cancellation, Palestinians based in Gaza and Ramallah in the West Bank celebrated. The Palestinian Football Federation also issued a statement welcoming Argentina's decision not to push through with the exhibition match.

The PFF thanked its Argentinian counterpart for "refusing to be used to serve a non-sporting goal."

In a press conference, Rajoub says the decision was in accordance with FIFA statutes and its effort to promote ethics and values through sports.

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