Argentina has called off an exhibition match against the Israeli national soccer team that was slated for Saturday in Jerusalem.
Argentina’s players decided to pull out of the game, which was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem on Saturday, “in solidarity” with superstar teammate Lionel Messi, Argentinian President Mauricio Macri told CNN en Español on Wednesday.
Palestinian officials were outraged by the decision to hold the match in the contested city. On Sunday, Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub launched a campaign against the Argentine Football Association (AFA) — and specifically Messi — and called on people to burn T-shirts of the soccer player.
“The AFA’s acceptance to play with Israel in Jerusalem have reminded us all of how Israel uses sports as a tool to whitewash its actions,” Rajoub said in a statement Sunday.
Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain called the decision “the right thing” in an interview on ESPN.
“We left it behind us. Good health and common sense come first and we think the right thing was not to go,” Higuain said.
An AFA official defended Argentina’s decision to suspend the match as a “positive” development Wednesday.
“I find it positive that the match between Argentina and Israel was suspended — it was the right thing to do, it was not worth it,” Hugo Moyano, Second Vice President of Argentina’s Football Association (AFA) said in an interview with Argentina’s Radio 10.
“What happens in these places where so many people are killed cannot be accepted by any human being. The families of the players were suffering,” Moyano added.
On Wednesday, the Israeli Football Association (IFA) laid the blame for the cancellation squarely on the shoulders of Rajoub.