Argentina pull out of Jerusalem match against Israel


Argentina have cancelled a football friendly match against Israel which was due to take place in Jerusalem on Saturday.

The decision follows campaigning from pro-Palestinian groups urging players to show their opposition to Israel’s use of force in Gaza.

Striker Gonzalo Higuain confirmed the news in an interview with ESPN.

“They’ve finally done the right thing,” he said.

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

The match against Israel had drawn criticism with the head of the Palestinian Football Association urging fans last weekend to burn pictures of Argentina striker Lionel Messi and replicas of his shirt if he played in the game.

Palestinian FA chief Jibril Rajoub wrote to Claudio Tapia, the head of the Argentinian FA, last week accusing Israel of using the match as a “political tool”.

The stadium that was due to host the match is in west Jerusalem. The Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future state that will include the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

However, the status of the city generally is highly sensitive. The match was originally due to be played in Haifa but Israeli authorities contributed funding for it to be moved to Jerusalem, irking Palestinians further following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.

Palestinians hailed the cancellation as a victory.

“I congratulate Palestine at such a great sport victory and the tough blow to the occupation,” Abdel-Salam Haniyeh, member of the Palestinian higher council of youth and sport, wrote on his facebook page after news of the cancellation broke.

“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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