Argentina planned to hold its final exhibition match ahead of the 2018 World Cup on Saturday against Israel in Jerusalem. That match, according to multiple reports, has been canceled after growing pressure from pro-Palestinian groups and concerns over player and fan safety at the game.
Neither team has yet to release an official statement.
Argentina has faced pressure in recent days while training in Barcelona over the match in Jerusalem, including demonstrations both in Buenos Aires and in Barcelona outside of their training camp.
After reports surfaced that the game had been called off, however, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly contacted Argentina president Mauricio Macri to “force the game to be played”:
According to Haaretz, a newspaper in Tel Aviv, Israel, Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli wasn’t interested in the game in the first place and has complained about it in recent days. The Palestine Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub reportedly urged fans to burn pictures of Lionel Messi and “replicas of his shirt” if the match was played. Rajoub, in a letter last week, accused Israel of using the friendly as a “political tool,” and even threatened to campaign against Argentina’s bid to host the World Cup in 2030 had the game taken place.
The game would have come shortly after multiple protests and violence in Jerusalem after United States President Donald Trump moved the U.S. embassy to the capital — which is claimed by both Israel and Palestine.
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