Argentine pundits lambaste national team’s ‘hypocrisy’ on Israel game

Opinion piece in leading paper suggests players should also boycott France, Russia, Saudis; another says Messi, who plays in terror-hit Barcelona, should know better

Argentina's forward Lionel Messi (3L) attends a training session with teammates in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona, on June 6, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA)
Argentina's forward Lionel Messi (3L) attends a training session with teammates in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona, on June 6, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / PAU BARRENA)

Argentina’s leading newspaper on Wednesday printed two scathing rebukes of the national team’s decision to cancel its friendly game with Israel scheduled for Saturday.

In an opinion piece published in Clarin and featured at the top of the publication’s website, journalist Miguel Winazki suggested it was time to “abolish soccer and lift the World Cup in hypocrisy.”

In order to be consistent in its decision to avoid controversy abroad, Winazki wrote, the national team should also “not play in Russia, because the Kremlin was behind the decision to launch military incursions in Syria in complicity with the tyrant Bashar Assad, causing the deaths of thousands of citizens of that country.”

It should also stay away from Iceland due to its involvement in alliances “that invaded Iraq and Afghanistan by blood and fire,” he wrote.

“Nor against Nigeria in protest against the atrocities perpetrated by the terrorist group Boko Haram against thousands of victims, mostly women,” he said.

“We will not play against Spain, for its colonial enclaves in Ceuta and Melilla” on the Moroccan coast, Winazki added, and “for the electrified gates at those sites that kill migrants.”

Argentina’s players arrive for a training session at the FC Barcelona ‘Joan Gamper’ sports centre in Sant Joan Despi near Barcelona on June 3, 2018. (AFP/ LLUIS GENE)

France was out of the question due to its colonial past, he continued, as was Saudi Arabia “for the oppression in that country against women.” Croatia and Serbia would also be boycotted over the brutalities of the regional wars in the 1990s.

“Strictly speaking, and of course according to this line of conduct, neither should the national team ever appear to play in Palestine — the Gaza Strip is dominated by the terrorist group Hamas, and at war with the Palestinian Authority that rules the West Bank.”

Winazki finally offered: “Let’s not play with anyone. Nor against ourselves, since we cannot even deal with our cases of corruption. We can abolish soccer, become a moral beacon, and raise the world cup of universal hypocrisy.”

Another leading piece in the paper titled “World Champions in the Absurd” mocked the team for “only now” finding out about the problems of the Middle East conflict.

Argentina’s superstar striker, Lionel Messi, writer Daniel Lagares noted, lives in Barcelona, where only last year 13 people were murdered in a terror attack.

Other Argentine team members play in England “where just a year ago a bomb exploded on the London Bridge,” he said, and in Paris, where the Stade de France soccer stadium was one of the targets in the November 2015 terror attacks on the city.

“Now they’ve been warned that Jerusalem is dangerous? Is it more dangerous than other cities? By how much?” Lagares mused.

This June 5, 2018, picture shows a poster erected in the West Bank town of Hebron calling for a boycott of soccer star Lionel Messi (l) next to a portrait of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (AFP PHOTO / HAZEM BADER)

He went on to accuse the national team of “clumsy” and “self-destructive” conduct only a week before the start of the World Cup.

Palestinians had campaigned for the match to be canceled. The head of the Palestinian soccer federation, Jibril Rajoub, claimed Israel had turned the match, which had been set to take place on Saturday, into a “political tool” by insisting it be held in Jerusalem as opposed to the originally planned location of Haifa.

Israeli opposition MKs appeared to agree, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev of politicizing the game by insisting it take place in the capital.

After news of the cancellation broke, Argentina’s foreign minister said soccer players representing his country had harbored misgivings about playing in Israel. He said players had received threats over playing the game and were uncomfortable with it going ahead.

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