Argentinian FA confirms World Cup warm-up against Israel has been cancelled

Posted June 06, 2018

Argentina's upcoming friendly with Israel in Jerusalem has been cancelled, the Israeli embassy confirmed here Tuesday, citing threats against Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

The match, South Americans' final warm up game before the World Cup in Russian Federation next week, was scheduled to be played in Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium on June 9, was highly anticipated in Israel with tickets selling out in 20 minutes.

Palestinian FA chief Jibril Rajoub had helped spark the controversy with his claims that fans should burn Messi photos and shirts if the Argentina star faced Israel in Jerusalem.

"The Embassy of Israel regrets to communicate the suspension of the match between Israel and Argentina", a statement said, referring to "threats and provocations" against Messi.

Argentina has reportedly cancelled a World Cup warm-up match against Israel under political pressure over Israel's treatment of Palestinians in Gaza.

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The Culture and Sport Ministry's director general, Yossi Sharabi, said Wednesday morning that "a final effort" was still being made to hold the game as planned.

Reports said that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called Argentinian president Mauricio Macri to ask him to persuade the team not to cancel their visit.

Although the stadium that was slated to host the match is in west Jerusalem, Rajoub had complained that it is situated in a neighborhood built on the site of a former Palestinian village destroyed during the war surrounding Israel's independence 70 years ago. Jorge Faurie did not confirm the game had been axed, but told reporters in Washington on the sidelines of the Organization of American States meeting that he believed players had been reluctant to travel to Israel to play.

"But we have a good group of players and the Argentine team is always going to be a candidate to win, it doesn't matter how we get there".

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Argentine media also reported the cancellation.

There was no initial reaction from the Israeli FA or from Israeli politicians.

The news was met with cheers in Gaza, where at least 120 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during recent protests.

As part of the campaign, Mohammed Khalil, a Palestinian footballer, directed a message toward Argentina's beloved forward Lionel Messi.

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