Argentina friendly called off after Palestinian 'threats, provocations'

Argentina friendly called off after Palestinian 'threats, provocations'

The match in Jerusalem's Teddy Kollek Stadium was to be Argentina's final game before they kick off their World Cup campaign in Russian Federation on June 16.

Regev pushed to move the friendly match from the original location of Haifa to the Israeli capital, she also claimed Argentinian soccer player Lionel Messi will visit the Kotel and shake her hand.

Local media had reported earlier Tuesday that the game was set to be scrapped, depriving Messi and his team-mates of a final warm-up game before they open their World Cup campaign in Russian Federation.

Following the reports of cancellation, Israeli officials scrambled to try and get the game back on track, with Netanyahu phoning Argentinian President Mauricio Macri.

The Culture and Sport Ministry's director general, Yossi Sharabi, said Wednesday morning that "a final effort" was still being made to hold the game as planned.

For days, Palestinian activists had lobbied and rallied to convince the Argentinian team to change its decision of playing a friendly game in Israel.

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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.

"Values, morals and sport have secured a victory today and a red card was raised at Israel through the cancellation of the game", said chairman Jibril Rajoub, quoted by Reuters news agency.

The cancellation came hours after pro-Palestinian activists staged a demonstration in front of the sports complex in Barcelona where Argentina is preparing ahead of the World Cup. Jorge Faurie did not confirm the game had been axed, but told reporters in Washington on the sidelines of the Organization of American States meeting that he believed players had been reluctant to travel to Israel to play.

The embassy opened on May 14, fanning Palestinian anger and intensifying protests on the Gaza border, with Israeli forces killing at least 61 Gazans that day.

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".

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

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