Argentina’s national football team has cancelled an upcoming friendly match with Israel. Argentinian sports website Minutouno reported that Saturday’s game in Jerusalem had been “suspended” amid an “escalation of violence, threats and criticism” raised against captain lionel Messi.
Argentina, a major contender to win the World cup, has made four previous pre-World Cup visits to Israel since 1986.
The fixture between the two teams was set to be played in Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium on June 9, which is built on land that was once a Palestinian village that was destroyed in 1948.
Israeli media reported that in light of this latest development, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will speak to his Argentinian counterpart Mauricio Macri by telephone.
The ambassador of Palestine in Argentina, Husni Abdel Wahed, had expressed his opposition to the friendly.
“This match would be similar to us celebrating … the occupation of Malvinas,” he told Radio Coperativa on Tuesday, referring to the Falkland Islands.
Abdel Wahed went on to say that the match was part of the celebrations of Israel’s 70th anniversary since its establishment in 1948, after hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their villages and lands by Zionist paramilitaries.
“For us it is unacceptable to hold this game in Jerusalem because it is occupied territory, and it is painful to see that the team, which has the love and support of so many Palestinians and Arab citizens, support the violation of international law,” he said.
Earlier this week, the head of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) Jibril Rajoub slammed the friendly as being opposite “a game of peace”.
“The Israeli government is trying to give it political significance by insisting it be held in Jerusalem,” Rajoub said.