BDS threats and concerns about security over rockets fired recently from Gaza didn’t stop Argentine football star Lionel Messi from taking the field with his national team against Uruguay in Tel Aviv.
Messi scored a goal in the game on Monday night, which ended in a 2-2 tie before a crowd of 29,000 that included Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and model Bar Rafaeli.
Last year, a campaign by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel led to threats against Messi and his family, and the cancellation of a match between Argentina and Israel in Jerusalem.
A new BDS campaign this year had threatened to shut down the match.
The company organiser of the match, Cometc group, sold out Bloomfield Stadium in two hours, a record. It donated a bloc of tickets to the Peres Center for Peace that were distributed to Muslim, Christian and Jewish children, as well as to kids from the Hapoel Katamon neighbourhood league.
Messi, considered one of the greatest players of all time, had visited Israel in 2013 with members of FC Barcelona. He is also ambassador to an Israeli startup company.
Sergio Aguero also scored for Argentina. Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani had goals for Uruguay.
Rivlin is a football fan and last year told Vice President Gabriela Michetti of Argentina that he admires the country’s players.
“We need to learn from Argentina, we in Israel are doing everything well, except playing football,” Rivlin said.