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Argentina Cancels Israel Match After Messi Protests Over Palestinian Killings

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Thursday June 07, 2018 - 03:23:10 in Special Reports by Journalist Bashiir
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    Argentina Cancels Israel Match After Messi Protests Over Palestinian Killings

    Argentina Cancels Israel Match After Messi Protests Over Palestinian Killings

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Argentina Cancels Israel Match After Messi Protests Over Palestinian Killings

Waagacusub.netArgentina has called off an exhibition match against the Israeli national soccer team that was slated for Saturday in Jerusalem, after being pressured by Palestinian groups to cancel the game.

Early Wednesday, the Israeli Embassy in Argentina confirmed that the game had been canceled, citing unspecified "threats and provocations” against star player Lionel Messi.

Argentine media reported that the reason for the cancellation was a series of threats made against Messi and his wife. Argentine sports daily Olé reported that the match was canceled following "threats and controversy.”

In a letter on May 28, Palestine Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub  urged the Argentine Football Association to call off the game after it was moved to Jerusalem from Haifa following "political pressure” by the Israeli government. Rajoub specifically mentioned Culture Minister Miri Regev.

"This is a decision that, given the current context, the Palestine Football Association utterly rejects and condemns,” Rajoub wrote, adding that Israel was trying to use the match to help celebrate its 70th birthday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with Argentine President Mauricio Macri late Tuesday, at Regev’s request, in an attempt to prevent the cancellation. But in a follow-up conversation, Macri told Netanyahu that he could not influence the final decision, sources close to the prime minister said.

The Argentine daily Clarín reported that, according to official sources, Macri examined the issue with the Argentine Football Association and learned that "the players don’t want to play in Israel because of threats against Messi.” Macri apologized to Netanyahu and said the players’ motives were not political, the paper said.

Clarín also said Macri had planned to attend the game himself along with   businesspeople from the Argentine Jewish community.

Argentine player Gonzalo Higuaín told ESPN that "they’ve finally done the right thing. Rationale and health come before everything else. We think it’s best not go to Israel.”

The Israel Football Association said that it had not yet received official notice about the cancelation and that it has been in "direct contact” with the Argentine Football Association and the soccer’s world governing body FIFA. The Israeli association attacked Rajoub, saying that his threats "crossed every red line.”

On Sunday, Rajoub urged fans to burn pictures of striker Messi and replicas of his shirt if he played in the match.

Palestinians were not happy that the match would have been held in Jerusalem, and last week Rajoub wrote to Claudio Tapia, the head of the Argentine Football Association, accusing Israel of using the match as a "political tool.”

Pressure on Messi and the football association in recent days has included demonstrations in Buenos Aires, and in Barcelona in front of the national team’s training camp.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote on Twitter: "It’s too bad the soccer knights of Argentina didn’t withstand the pressure of the Israeli-hating inciters, whose only goal is to impinge on our basic right to self-defense and bring about Israel’s destruction. We will not yield to a pack of anti-Semitic terrorist supporters.”

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also responded to the cancellation.

"What happened here, truthfully, is less about the boycott. There’s a good friendship with Argentina, terrific relations. Due to violent incitement and threats by Jibril Rajoub and the whole bloodied-jerseys charade, fears rose about personal safety, and the players started to worry about being physically assaulted in Jerusalem,” Erdan told Israel Radio.


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