Argentina cancels Israel World Cup friendly after Gaza violence

Cristian Pavón

Argentina cancels Israel World Cup friendly after Gaza violence

Until now, the South Americans had been scheduled to contest a friendly with Israel in Jerusalem on Saturday as their final warm-up before the World Cup.

Argentina canceled a World Cup warmup game against Israel's national soccer team, citing unspecified "threats and provocations" against one of the tournament's star players, the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires said Wednesday.

A senior source at Argentina's Football Federation, who was speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the game had been called off.

He has long urged Fifa to expel Israel from the global football federation, citing Israeli travel restrictions on Palestinian players and because Israel maintains teams in West Bank settlements.

The Israel Vs Argentina pre-World Cup worldwide friendly match has been cancelled as political pressure mounts ahead of the game scheduled for Saturday in Jerusalem.

Rajoub went so far as to ask for fans to burn photos of Lionel Messi and Argentina shirts. Thousands more are believed to have been injured during the incident.

Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain announced on Tuesday that the match was cancelled. He added: "Health and common sense come first".

"With all the indignation it aroused, I prefer that we take care of the players, that they don't go to a conflict zone", he said.

Jorge Sampoali's side will open their World Cup campaign against Iceland in Moscow on June 16 before games against Croatia and Nigeria on June 21 and June 26 respectively.

The US shifted its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem in May on the 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel in a move met with condemnation from the Palestinians.

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.

Media reports say Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Argentine President Mauricio Macri in an attempt to salvage the friendly tie, due to be played in Jerusalem on Saturday.

Argentina Football Association president Claudio Tapia said: "Yesterday the decision was taken to not travel and play the friendly game against Israel".

BDS stands for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

'Messi is a symbol of peace and love, ' Rajoub said.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem its capital, while Palestinians want its eastern part as capital of their own state. The venue was later moved to Haifa and then to Jerusalem.

Argentina has made four previous pre-World Cup stopovers in Israel since 1986.

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