The Palestinians welcomed the decision by the Argentine Football Federation to cancel a football match with the Israeli team, calling it “a slap to the Israeli government.”
By: World Israel News Staff
The Palestinians welcomed the decision by the Argentine Football Federation to cancel its friendly football match with the Israeli soccer team that was slated to take place in Jerusalem on Saturday.
Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Association (PFA), on Wednesday welcomed the decision which came after intense pressure by the Palestinians and other anti-Israel elements.
Rajoub told Palestine TV that the cancellation of the match was “a slap to the Israeli government” for insisting on holding the game in Jerusalem after it was originally scheduled for Haifa, claiming that they would have not fought the game if it were held there.
“The Argentine national team and its star player, Lionel Messi, a sport icon loved by many, slapped [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu by refusing to hold the match,” Rajoub stated, saying this move was political.
“Values, morality and the message of sports have triumphed today and the red card was raised in the face of Israel by canceling this game,” he added.
Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie also indicated that had the game remained in Haifa, it might still be on. Haifa,would have been “more neutral,” he said, according to the La Nacion.
However, the Argentinean team has been facing a viscous onslaught of protests and direct threats to team players and their families by anti-Israel elements.
Rajoub had personally targeted Messi and called on Arab soccer fans to burn Messi posters if he participates in the game.
On Tuesday, Faurie told reporters it appeared the players had been reluctant to travel to Israel for the game.
“As far as I know, the players of the national team were not willing to play the game,” Faurie said, pointing to security concerns stemming from tensions on Israel’s borders and in Jerusalem, AFP reported.
“In the end, they’ve done right thing and this is behind us,” Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain told ESPN. “Health and common sense come first. We felt that it wasn’t right to go.”
Regarding health concerns he was likely referring to physical threats made against the team.
‘There are values’ greater than Messi
Israel was eagerly awaiting the sold-out game at Jerusalem’s Teddy Kollek Stadium and the arrival of some of the world’s best soccer players.
“It’s unfortunate the soccer knights of Argentina did not withstand the pressure of the Israeli-hating inciters, whose only goal is to harm our basic right to self-defense and bring about the destruction of Israel,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said. “We will not yield before a pack of anti-Semitic terrorist supporters.”
Israel has largely fended off the boycott campaign, with only a small number of artists and organizations rejecting the Jewish state. Argentina’s snubbing would appear to be the boycott movement’s greatest achievement thus far.
President Reuven Rivlin said it “is truly a sad morning for soccer fans, including some of my grandchildren, but there are values that are even bigger than Messi.”
“The politicization in the Argentinian decision is of great concern. Even in the most difficult times, we made every effort to leave considerations that are not purely about sport off the playing field, and it is a pity that the Argentina team did not manage to do so on this occasion,” he added.
Israeli organizers said an offer had been floated to have the game played in Barcelona instead, but it was highly unlikely.
AP contributed to this report.