Argentina ‘call off’ controversial World Cup warm-up against Israel

Argentina ‘call off’ controversial World Cup warm-up against Israel

‘They’ve finally done the right thing,’ says Gonzalo Higuaín. Palestinian FA thanks the Argentina players

Argentina have cancelled their final World Cup warm-up match against Israel, striker Gonzalo Higuaín said on Tuesday, as political pressure grew before Saturday’s scheduled fixture in Jerusalem.

“They’ve finally done the right thing,” Higuaín said in an interview with ESPN, confirming reports the game had been cancelled.

The match at Jerusalem’s Teddy Kollek Stadium was to be Argentina’s last before they start their World Cup campaign in Russia against Iceland on 16 June.

There was no initial reaction from the Israeli FA or from Israeli politicians. Reports said that the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, had called the Argentinian president, Mauricio Macri, to ask him to persuade the team not to cancel their visit.

Israel Radio quoted an unnamed diplomatic official who said the chances of salvaging the fixture were very slim.

The visit of the two-times World Cup winners had attracted huge interest among Israeli fans, mainly because of Lionel Messi’s planned participation.

Palestinians celebrated the cancellation. People in Gaza cheered and in Ramallah in the West Bank, the Palestinian FA issued a statement thanking Messi and his colleagues for cancelling the game.

“The Palestinian FA thanks Argentina’s players led by star Messi for refusing to be used to serve a non-sporting goal,” it read.

The Palestinian FA chairman, Jibril Rajoub, said: “Values, morals and sport have secured a victory today and a red card was raised at Israel through the cancellation of the game.”

Rajoub has called a news conference for Wednesday in Ramallah, which he will hold outside the Argentinian representative’s office. On Sunday he called for Palestinians to burn replica shirts and pictures of Messi.

The stadium which was to host the match is in west Jerusalem. The Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future state that will include the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. However, the status of Jerusalem is highly sensitive. The match was originally planned to be played in Haifa but Israeli authorities contributed funding for it to be moved to Jerusalem, irking Palestinians further following the United States president Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital. The US embassy was moved there last month.

The cancellation is just one more obstacle for Argentina, whose World Cup preparations have been troubled this time around.

They suffered a 6-1 defeat by Spain in a friendly in March and lost their first-choice goalkeeper, Sergio Romero, to injury, giving little encouragement to fans who watched the team struggle to qualify for the tournament in Russia.

Argentina face Iceland, Nigeria and Croatia in what is considered to be one of the hardest groups in the tournament. es un sitio web oficial del Gobierno Argentino