Argentina’s soccer association on Wednesday officially announced the cancellation of his country’s friendly soccer match against Israel which was to have been held on Saturday in Jerusalem.
“Unfortunately we cannot come to Israel in the current situation,” said Claudio Tapia, president of the association, at a press conference in Barcelona where the national team has been training ahead of the start of the World Cup tournament in Russia on June 14.
“It’s nothing against the Israeli community, it’s nothing against the Jewish community,” Tapia said, adding that he hoped “everyone will take this decision as a contribution to peace.”
Tapia said, “The last 72 hours led us to make the decision not to travel,” stressing that his primary responsibility was to look out for the health and safety of the team.
He apologized to Israelis who had purchased tickets.
Tapia said Argentina had “left open” the possibility of playing Israel in the future, either in the Jewish state or elsewhere.
A spokesman for the national team told AFP that Argentina wanted to quickly forget the diplomatic controversy sparked by the cancellation of the planned match against Israel in Jerusalem and focus on its World Cup preparations.
“Argentina is seven days from the World Cup. We want to focus on what is really important and which is before us,” a federation spokesman told AFP in Barcelona.
The Argentina squad trained on Wednesday morning at FC Barcelona’s training ground, just a few hours after the friendly match was called off. No player of Argentina football federation official spoke to the media.
The sold-out game in Jerusalem, which had been due to take place on Saturday was hotly opposed by Palestinians.
Pro-Palestinian activists staged a demonstration on Tuesday in front of the sports complex where Lionel Messi and the rest of the Argentina squad are preparing. Some waved jerseys of the Argentina’s national team stained with fake blood.
The group that organized the protest said the cancellation of the match was a “gesture of empathy with the Palestinian people.”
“We will remember the Argentine team and Messi because they said ‘Not in our name,'” the group added on Facebook.
William Jensen, 34, who came to the training ground to cheer on the Argentine squad, also welcomed the decision.
“It is good that football does not hide the conflict between Palestine and Israel. Argentina can organize a match here in Barcelona against any other team,” he told AFP.
Roberto Piparola, a 50-year-old Argentine who lives in Barcelona, shared this view.
“With all the indignation it aroused, I prefer that we take care of the players, that they don’t go to a conflict zone,” he said.
Israel strongly protested the decision, while the Hamas terrorist group and Palestinian Authority leaders applauded the move.
Israel’s soccer association announced Wednesday it would file a complaint to FIFA accusing its Palestinian counterpart of pressuring Argentinian players and staff into cancelling a friendly match.
Rotem Kamer, vice president of the Israeli Football Association, accused the Palestinian FA of “football [soccer] terror” after its leader called for protests against Argentina in the buildup to the game.
“We are seeing it as crossing a red line and we cannot accept it,” he said.
“We are going to send an official complaint to (world football’s governing body) FIFA and the disciplinary committee to take action.”