“There’s no chance that an Arab nation, probably Qatar, is not behind the cancellation of Argentina’s arrival,” an Israeli sports official said.
By: World Israel News Staff
Qatar was likely behind the cancellation of the exhibition soccer match between Argentina and Israel, scheduled to take place Saturday night in Jerusalem, Israeli soccer officials say.
“There’s no chance that an Arab nation, probably Qatar, is not behind the cancellation of Argentina’s arrival,” according to one of the Israeli organizers.
Tickets to the event were completely sold out.
Although there is no hard evidence to support the claim of Qatar’s culpability, the suspicion is based mainly on the fact that the Argentine Football Association, despite facing acute financial challenges, has agreed to pay $2.2 million to the organizers.
The Qatar Football Association has provided funding to its Argentine counterpart in the past and, therefore, is likely handling the compensation cost, the Israelis suspect.
The Israeli officials also noted the close relationship between Qatar and Palestinian Football Association chair Jibril Rajoub, who urged the Argentine team to cancel the match.
In his campaign to cancel the game, Rajoub called on Arab and Muslim sports fans to burn photos and t-shirts of Argentine football celebrity Lionel Messi if he attends the match.
“Messi. Don’t come. Don’t whitewash the face of racism,” Rajoub stated.
After the cancellation was announced, Rajoub told Palestine TV it was “a slap to the Israeli government.”
“The Argentine national team and its star player, Lionel Messi, a sports icon loved by many, slapped [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu by refusing to hold the match,” Rajoub stated.
Rajoub, who had served time in Israeli prison for his involvement in terrorism, has a history of working to exclude Israel from international sports.
Despite multiple failures in the past, the Palestinians launched a petition last fall to remove the Israeli Football Association (IFA) from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the world’s governing body for soccer.
When Palestinian and Israeli boys met in southern Israel for a football match in 2014, Rajoub stated: “Any activity of normalization in sports with the Zionist enemy is a crime against humanity.”