Argentina has announced it is pulling out of its scheduled World Cup warmup match with Israel in a move protesting the Israeli state’s recent actions in the Gaza strip. Feuds with Hamas and intense protest led by Palestinians have led to tear gas-fueled armed disputes in the Gaza region, with the Argentinian footballers claiming that the Israeli state’s response to recent protests is the cause of their cancellation.
While the two teams were scheduled to meet up this coming Saturday in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Football Association announced that it had successfully lobbied the Argentinians to cancel the friendly. According to the Independent, the PFA issued a statement on the cancellation of the World Cup warmup.
“The will of values, ethics and the message of sport had triumphed today, and the red card had been lifted in Israel’s face by cancelling this match,” Palestinian Federation of Football President Rajoub noted.
The statement directly linked the Israeli government’s recent actions in Gaza to the cancellation. Israeli government officials claimed that the game had been called off due to unspecific security threats against certain players.
The Israeli Embassy in Argentina confirmed to Haaretz that threats against Lionel Messi and his wife were at least partly to blame for the cancellation.
Israeli officials immediately struck back at the Argentinian cancellation of the friendly, calling out the Argentina footballers in question as anti-Semitic and in support of terrorist organizations. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lierberman slammed the Argentina footballers on Twitter as supporting terrorist groups in their effort to destroy the Israeli state.
The Football Federation of Israel is also taking serious steps after the cancellation, and is reportedly lobbying FIFA to revoke Argentina’s ability to participate in the upcoming World Cup in Russia. According to Telesur, Israeli officials are claiming that the Argentinian footballer’s religious discrimination was on full display to the world when they canceled the match over disputes with the Israeli state.
Private companies involved in the now-canceled football match claim they had already invested millions into the endeavor, and that the last-minute pulling out by the Argentinians seriously threatened their financial security. Reportedly, tickets to the canceled match sold out in as quickly as 20 minutes after being announced.
The game was originally scheduled to occur in Haifa, but was later moved to Jerusalem in a move deemed controversial by many after the U.S. recently moved its embassy to that city.