Argentina ‘calls off’ controversial World Cup warm-up against Israel

Jun 06, 2018, 10:42
Argentina ‘calls off’ controversial World Cup warm-up against Israel

Jorge Sampaoli's side were scheduled to take on Israel in Jerusalem on Saturday, but after protests by Palestinian football authorities, who urged Messi not to play, the match was cancelled by Argentina's football governing body.

The cancellation was confirmed by the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, which referred in a statement to "threats and provocations" against Messi.

Reports had surfaced in Argentina on Tuesday that the match would be called off, with Palestine's Football Association celebrating the news.

Following the reports of cancellation, Israeli officials scrambled to try and get the game back on track, with Netanyahu phoning Argentinian President Mauricio Macri.

Palestinian FA chief Jibril Rajoub wrote to Claudio Tapia, the head of the Argentinian FA, last week accusing Israel of using the match as a "political tool".

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"Since they announced they would play against Israel, various terror groups have been sending messages and letters to players on the Argentina national team and their relatives, including clear threats to hurt them and on the lives of their families", she said.

Palestinians hailed the cancellation as a victory.

"But that's the way it is, we have to travel on the day before the match, play Israel in Israel and then from there go on to Russian Federation".

The cancellation came hours after pro-Palestinian activists staged a demonstration in front of the sports complex in Barcelona where Argentina is preparing ahead of the World Cup.

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"The Israeli government is trying to give it political significance by insisting it be held in Jerusalem".

The embassy opened on May 14, fanning Palestinian anger and intensifying protests on the Gaza border, with Israeli forces killing at least 61 Gazans that day.

Rajoub has long urged FIFA to expel Israel from the worldwide football federation, citing Israeli travel restrictions on Palestinian soccer players and because Israel maintains teams in West Bank settlements.

Last month, US President Donald Trump stirred global anger and condemnation with a decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem, recognising the city as the capital of Israel. Stating it's impossible to enjoy games when millions of Palestinians don't enjoy "human rights" Odeh said that "there is only one way to win, ending the occupation and having a real peace treaty, which is still possible".

"We ask him to be participate in the legitimisation of the criminal occupation".

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