Argentina versus Israel called off

06 June, 2018, 10:40 | Author: Anita Tucker
  • Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi puts a paper with wishes in a crack in the Western Wall

"They've finally done the right thing", striker Gonzalo Higuain said in an interview with ESPN on Tuesday, confirming reports the game had been cancelled following political pressure.

The match, which was Argentina's final game before the Russia World Cup 2018, was set to be played on Saturday at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem al-Quds amid global anger over a decision by the United States to recognize the occupied Palestinian city as Israel's "capital".

Both national football teams have yet to make an official announcement of the cancellation, but the Argentine outlet Minuto Uno reported that the Argentina Football Association (AFA) will formally call off the match.

The visit of twice world champions Argentina has attracted huge interest among Israeli fans, mainly because of Barcelona great Lionel Messi's planned participation.

Palestinians celebrated the game's cancellation.

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"Messi is a symbol of peace and love", he said in a statement ahead of the game.

"The Palestinian FA thanks Argentina's players led by star Messi for refusing to be used to serve a non-sporting goal".

Rajoub had accused Israel of using the match as a political tool and now the clash has been cancelled.

Palestinian FA chairman Jibril Rajoub made the call after a protest outside the Argentinean representative's office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, saying, "Messi".

"We thank all liberals among sport people and all those who stood by us to demand the cancellation of the match between Argentina and the occupation in Jerusalem".

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The status of Jerusalem is disputed in both worldwide law and diplomatic practice and is one of the most intractable issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, the status of the match had been placed in doubt earlier, following protests by Palestinian football authorities.

Palestinian authorities said in May that more than 50 people were killed by the Israeli military in Palestinian protests along the Gaza border as the USA opened its new embassy in Jerusalem.

Their only other World Cup warm-up game was a 4-0 victory over Haiti in Buenos Aires last week which resembled a training exercise.

They suffered a heavy defeat to Spain in a friendly and lost their first-choice goalkeeper to injury, giving little encouragement to fans who watched the team struggle to qualify for the tournament in Russian Federation.

Argentina have been grouped against Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria for the showpiece event in Russian Federation, and Messi admitted that Jorge Sampaoli's side need to pull up their socks.

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