Argentina 'cancels Israel World Cup friendly' after Gaza violence

Argentina's upcoming friendly with Israel in Jerusalem has been cancelled following protests by Palestinian football authorities, local media reported on Tuesday without citing sources.

"The Israeli embassy is sad to announce the suspension of the match between the Israel and Argentina national teams scheduled for Saturday June 9, as a warm-up for the Russia World Cup", the statement reads.

Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian FA, implored Leo Messi not to attend the friendly between Israel and Argentina.

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

Tensions between Israel and Palestine seem to be the main reason for the game being scrapped, with the Palestinian Football Federation believing the match would have been used as "a tool of political blackmail".

Responding to the cancellation of the game, Regev, the culture and sport minister, said early Wednesday that Argentinian players had received threats from "terror groups".

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Messi will be in action against Israel for Argentina this coming weekend in an worldwide friendly, ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. "The Israeli government is trying to give it political significance by insisting it be held in Jerusalem", Rajoub said.

Palestinians are outraged at US President Donald Trump's decision last December to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, breaking with decades of policy, and move his country's embassy there.

"I stressed that the game, in the wake of the killing of the Palestinians in Gaza and the relocation of the USA. embassy to Jerusalem, sends a risky message to the Israeli government that the world ignores its gross human rights violations". The Palestinians have agreed in several agreements to claim the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future state that will include the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Rajoub went so far as to ask for fans to burn photos of Lionel Messi and Argentina shirts.

"I don't consider myself the best, I think I am just another player.On the field, we are all the same when the game begins", Messi said.

He called the Barcelona forward a "symbol of love and peace", and called on him to not participate in the beautification of "the fascist occupation's image".

  • Lawrence Cooper