June 18, 2018

Palestinians celebrate Israel's spectacular Messi 'own goal'

08 June 2018, 07:36 | Joan Schultz

Messi and Argentina will not face Israel in Jerusalem friendly - match cancelled after protests

Israel cancel World Cup warm-up friendly with Argentina citing threats against Lionel Messi

The leader of the Lega party, Matteo Salvini, who recently took the office of deputy prime minister and interior minister, has expressed solidarity with Israel, slamming hatred and violence hindering a peaceful event as Argentina pulled out from a pre-World Cup warm-up game in Jerusalem, citing serious threats to players as the reason.

The cancellation was seen as a victory for the global Palestinian anti-Israel boycott campaign.

The encounter was called off on Tuesday after a campaign by the Palestinians following its relocation to Jerusalem.

On Thursday, the association tweeted: "Israel FA has filed a complaint to FIFA only against the Palestinian FA and the president of the PFA, Jibril Rajoub".

The Palestinians have also been outraged by President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and his decision to move the US Embassy to the city. "We are seeing it as crossing a red line and we can not accept it". Jerusalem was invaded and occupied in 1967 by Israel, which wants all of the city as its capital.

The Joint Arab List has announced it plans to petition the European Broadcasting Union to cancel the Eurovision Song Contest, scheduled to take place in Jerusalem next May following Netta Barzilai's win for Israel in this year's event in Portugal.

Argentina open their Group D campaign in Russian Federation against Iceland on June 16. "So I personally say, if the Eurovision won't be held in Jerusalem, it's not right to invest the NIS 50 million in public funds", she said.

Rajoub laughed off Israeli threats of action, denying there was any intimidation.

Israel cried foul Thursday after Argentina cancelled a football match with the Jewish state, anxious that a strengthening cultural boycott could affect its hosting of the 2019 Eurovision song contest.

The Israeli news site Ynet reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called Argentine president Mauricio Macri and urged him to intervene.

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Netanyahu is now visiting Europe and his office could not immediately confirm the reports.

On Wednesday, he said the game had been suspended because of threats "worse than ISIS" against top Argentine players.

An opinion piece in the left-wing Haaretz newspaper said Regev had scored an "own goal" after "imposing politics on sports", and the centrist Yediot Aharonot featured a sick nine-year-old boy who broke out in tears when he learned he would not be accompanying Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi onto the pitch.

In the streets of Argentina's capital some people sought to look past the Mideast geopolitics that are widely debated here and focused their ire on the management of the national soccer team.

On Wednesday, Rajoub thanked the Argentines for "following their conscience".

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Israel's current government has said it will not accept a partition of the city as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Regev's remarks came a day after Argentina made a decision to scrap a planned exhibition soccer match against the Israeli national team set to be held in Jerusalem on Saturday under pressure from Palestinians and following alleged threats against its players, including superstar captain Lionel Messi.

The Palestinian Football Association opposed the game from the start, and blamed Regev for the move to Jerusalem and what they called the ensuing "disaster".

Israeli troops have killed at least 125 Gazans since March 30, during protests and clashes along the border over the return of Palestinians to land they fled or were expelled from during the 1948 war surrounding Israel's creation. Hoping for a less expensive settlement of the dispute, Tapai reportedly proposed staging two friendly matches in Israel on the condition that they would not be held in Jerusalem.

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli last week aired misgivings about having his players make the trip to Israel, noting he preferred to remain in Barcelona.

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