One-nil to Palestinians after Argentina cancels Israel match

One-nil to Palestinians after Argentina cancels Israel match

The cancellation of a football friendly between Israel and Argentina has prompted calls for Israel’s sports minister to resign and a police investigation into the “politicisation” of football.

The match had been scheduled to take place on Saturday at Israel’s newest stadium in Haifa. However, Miri Regev, the sports minister, wanted to move the fixture to Jerusalem. That angered Palestinians, who consider Jerusalem their capital and who have broken off ties with the US since President Trump announced it was moving its embassy there.

The Argentine government under President Macri is considered quite pro-Israel, but the Palestinian pressure was put directly on players in the national team, in particular Lionel Messi, who received a personal letter from the chief of the Palestinian Football Association asking him not to play. According to Argentine media reports, Messi’s family and other players in the squad were threatened with violence.

By Tuesday night it became clear that the Argentina team would remain at their World Cup training camp in Barcelona. Palestinians greeted the cancellation of the match as a rare diplomatic victory. In Israel Avi Gabbay, leader of the opposition Labor Party, said that “the corrupt behaviour of the sports minister . . . needs to be investigated by the police”, but she blamed “terrorist organisations” for scaring off Argentina with threats.

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