The Israeli Football Association has accused its Palestinian counterparts of committing an “attack on sport” – saying they forced Argentina to pull out of a friendly match in Jerusalem this weekend.
Claiming they crossed “every red line possible” by making threats to the likes of Lionel Messi, Israeli Football Association spokesman Shlomi Barzel told Jewish News: “The way the Palestinian Football Association has acted, the quotes they have come out with, the threats made to the Argentinian footballers – every red line was crossed.”
Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian FA, had earlier in the week urged Barcelona star Messi not to play in the game and called on fans to burn shirts bearing his name if he did. He said: “He’s a big symbol so we are going to target him personally and we call on all to burn his picture and his shirt and to abandon him.”
Barzel said: “We’re keeping records of everything they’ve said and will be filing a complaint to FIFA about it. The chair will send a letter to FIFA President Gianni Infantino demanding punishment for those who want to harm football players and those who torpedoed a friendly match between the two teams. This is not about sport, it’s about politics and we’re not standing for it. ”
Despite reports on Wednesday morning stating the game had been called off, Barzel said they were still awaiting official confirmation from the Argentine FA, saying other reports were based on rumours.
The Israeli embassy in Argentina did though tweet that it regretted the cancellation of the match, saying the decision was made “after threats were made on the life of Lionel Messi, logically, the other players showed solidarity with him and they were afraid to take part in the match.”
President Reuven Rivlin called it a “sad day”, saying that the “politicisation… worries me greatly. Even during the most difficult periods, we have made every effort to keep sports pure, and it is a shame that the Argentinian national team did not do that in this instance.”
On hearing how Argentinian footballers had been sent death threats if they were to take part in the match, Culture Minister Miri Regev had earlier said: “I hope the Argentinian national team will not yield to terrorism.”
The match, which had been switched from Haifa, to the Teddy Kollek Stadium was to be the South Americans final game before kicking-off its World Cup campaign in Russia on 16 June.
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