Argentine FM: The players didn't want to play in Israel
Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie on Tuesday night responded to reports that a friendly soccer match between the Argentine national team and the Israeli national team had been cancelled.
Faurie, speaking to reporters in Washington on the sidelines of the Organization of American States meeting, would not confirm the game had been axed, but added he believed players had been reluctant to travel to Israel for the game.
"As far as I know, the players of the national team were not willing to play the game," Faurie said, according to AFP.
The Argentina Football Association did not immediately comment on the reports.
The friendly match was cancelled earlier on Tuesday following Palestinian Arab pressure on the Argentine team not to play in Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with Argentine President Mauricio Macri following the cancellation of the game, but officials in the Prime Minister's Office said that Macri informed Netanyahu that he has no influence on the decision whether or not to hold the game as scheduled.
Meanwhile, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev (Likud) spoke on Tuesday night with Danny Ben Naim, the organizer of the friendly, and was updated by him on the frantic efforts that are being made so that the Argentine team will come to play in Israel as scheduled despite reports that the game had been cancelled.
Regev’s office said in a statement that she had been told that ever since the Argentine national team announced it would play in Israel, various terrorist organizations have been sending messages and threats to the team’s players and their families, with explicit threats to harm their lives and their family's lives. Among other things, the players were sent videos and pictures of children's bodies.
Minister Regev said, "I hope that Argentina's players will not succumb to the terror threats and to the BDS organizations."
Earlier this week, Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub called on Messi not to play in the Argentina-Israel game in Jerusalem, urging fans to burn their shirts if he does.
Some of the pressure to cancel the game also came from within Israel: Last Friday, MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List) met the Argentinean ambassador to Israel and ask his country to reconsider the Argentina team's appearance in Jerusalem.
"I stressed that the game, in the wake of the killing of the Palestinians in Gaza and the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, sends a dangerous message to the Israeli government that the world ignores its gross human rights violations. Messi cannot turn his back on the Palestinian victims," said Jabareen.