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Palestine FA Thanks Argentina for Canceling its Pre-World Cup ‘Friendly’ with Israel

Daniel Edwards

Argentina’s controversial friendly against Israel has been suspended after the match scheduled in Jerusalem provoked waves of protest, according to multiple reports. 

According to sources close to the Argentine FA, consulted by the NA agency, concerns over player and fan security for the game that was to be played on Saturday led to its cancellation, while a trip that would also have seen Argentina’s stars visit landmarks like the Wailing Wall has also been scrapped.

The Seleccion had just two warm-up matches arranged before travelling to the finals in Russia.

A Lionel Messi hat-trick saw the nation past Haiti last week in a 4-0 win, before the squad travelled to Barcelona for a training camp prior to the trip to Israel.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi (Source: Wikicommons and Дмитрий Садовниковsoccer.ru)

The game, however, coming after a brutal crackdown on protests in Jerusalem after the United States moved its embassy to the disputed capital, was the focus for huge criticism from Palestinian and human rights groups.

And while official confirmation over the cancellation failed to arrive on Tuesday from the Argentine FA, Gonzalo Higuain told ESPN that he believes the decision not to play the friendly is the right choice.

“I think that in the end the right thing was done,” he said. “It’s now behind us, obviously our health and common sense comes first, we think the right thing to do was not to go.”

Palestinian FA chief Jibril Rajoub even went as far as to say fans should burn shirts with Lionel Messi’s name on the back to protest the staging of the fixture.

Argentina’s training session in Barcelona on Tuesday was also accompanied by demonstrations, with protesters daubing Albiceleste shirts in ‘blood’.

“The reports we are receiving are that it has been cancelled, but we still have no official confirmation,” PFA international director Susan Shalabi said to EFE. 

“If confirmed, I must say that it shows great virtue on the Argentina team’s part that they have decided not to lend themselves to be political tools.”

Shalabi added that Messi’s side should not be “used as a tool to justify the Israeli occupation” and that the decision was “a fine example of the separation of politics and sport and of not allowing politicians to impose their agenda.”

The decision now leaves Jorge Sampaoli’s men in a quandary, with precious little time to arrange a new friendly prior to the start of the World Cup.

Iceland await the South Americans in their first game of Group D on June 16, with Croatia and Nigeria completing the list of first-round opponents.

READ MORE PALESTINE NEWS AT: 21st Century Wire Palestine Files




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