Published: Thu, June 07, 2018
Sports | By Brett Lawson

Argentina friendly with Israel to be scrapped

Argentina friendly with Israel to be scrapped

Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli had last week aired misgivings about having to travel to Israel, noting he would have preferred to remain in Barcelona, where the team is holding its pre-World Cup training camp.

Argentina were due to play in the friendly in Jerusalem on Saturday, but the team announced they would not be taking part.

While neither football association has confirmed the cancellation, the issue has been batted between political figures in the past few days.

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

Palestinian FA chief Jibril Rajoub had helped spark the controversy with his claims that fans should burn Messi photos and shirts if the Argentina star faced Israel in Jerusalem.

The news was met with cheers in Gaza, where at least 120 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during recent protests. Thousands more are believed to have been injured during the incident.

"They've finally done the right thing", Higuain said in an interview. "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.

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Manchester United defender, Marcos Rojo, has said that Argentina, being drawn with Nigeria again in the same group at the World Cup, means it will be tough for the Albiceleste. Most countries say Jerusalem's status must be resolved in future peace talks, although President Donald Trump reversed USA policy a year ago and recognized the city as the capital of Israel.

"Messi, don't come. Don't whitewash the face of racism", Rajoub said.

Israel's Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev, who had insisted that the match be switched from Haifa's Sammy Offer Stadium to Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium said that she hoped the Argentinean players would not yield to terrorism.

Rotem Kamer, vice president of the Israeli Football Association, accused the Palestinian FA of "football [soccer] terror" after its leader called for protests against Argentina in the buildup to the game. Israel considers the entire city to be its capital, while the Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

The head of the PFA has long demanded sanctions against Israel, which has six league teams based in occupied Palestinian territory.

2014's FIFA World Cup runners up Argentina have one of the strongest front lines in the world.

The movement against Israel got a push after the footage of a Palestinian footballer being shot by Israeli soldiers in March went viral.

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