Israel fury after Argentina abruptly nixes World Cup warmup over Palestinian pressure

Cristian Pavón

Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said before confirmation of the game's cancellation that he believed his country's players had been reluctant to travel to Israel for the match.

The Israeli embassy said "it regrets to communicate the suspension of the match between Israel and Argentina", and referred to unspecified "threats" and "provocations" against Messi.

Argentina has cancelled its upcoming football match against Israel amidst condemnation for the Latin American country for its decision to have sporting ties with a country, whose troops have been committing war crimes against innocent Palestinians. "Health and common sense come first". The right thing was done, it's not worth it.

Argentina's football team were praised by the campaign group Avaaz for making a "brave ethical decision".

The Palestinians accused Israel of moving the match to Jerusalem to exploit the presence of Messi and other stars to underpin Israel's claim to the Holy City.

Argentina will begin its quest for a World Cup title against Iceland on June 16.

BDS stands for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

Reports in Israel said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called Argentinian President Mauricio Macri to ask him to persuade the team not to cancel their visit, but Israel Radio quoted an unnamed diplomatic official who said the chances of salvaging the fixture were very slim.

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The head of their Palestinian counterpart, Jibril Rajoub, had encouraged fans to burn shirts bearing Messi's name if he played.

Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze'ev Elkin rejected the claim against Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev that her politicization of the exhibition game between Israel and Argentina, including the decision to move it from Haifa to Jerusalem, resulted in its cancellation.

"We give everything when we are wearing it and we want payback for the way things happened at the last World Cup".

That's why Maradona is still considered the best player in Argentina, because he was a World Cup champion.

The match, which was slated for 9 June, was set to be played in Jerusalem's Teddy Kollek Stadium but had drawn intense reactions, especially from Palestinians.

At the same time, Israel has faced fierce criticism over its use of lethal force against Palestinian protesters on the Gaza Strip border with the Jewish state.

Israel lays claim to the whole Jerusalem al-Quds, but the worldwide community views the city's eastern sector as an occupied territory and Palestinians consider it as the capital of their future state.

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