Argentinian soccer player Pedro Galvan made a tearful last-ditch plea Sunday to be allowed to stay in Israel after the Interior Ministry rejected his residency request and gave him and his wife and four daughters until the end of the month to leave the country.
Galvan played in Israel for 10 years and is the top scoring foreign player in the history of the Premier League, achieving 104 goals in 257 matches.
But his application for citizenship came to a halt last year when his club Hapoel Tel Aviv canceled his contract.
Despite the intervention of Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, the Interior Ministry on Friday rejected his request, saying that “after the issue was examined by the professional authorities, we do not see any reason to authorize the continued residency of Galvan and his family in Israel.”
Speaking to the press Sunday, a tearful Galvan questioned the decision.
“I ask, why do they deport us? Why am I different to others? My daughters don’t know any other country,” he said.
The Interior Ministry declined to say why other foreign sports stars had been given residency in Israel at the end of their careers, while Galvan was denied, Army Radio reported.
“They are not giving me an opportunity to live here with my children who only know Israel. Israel is our country. I want to help our country, in soccer, in everything,” he said.
His wife also issued a plea to be allowed to stay
When his contract was canceled last year, Regev vowed to help, saying, “I personally approached Interior Minister Aryeh Deri to grant citizenship to Galvan for his contribution to soccer in Israel, and the Culture and Sports Ministry sent a recommendation to the Interior Ministry to issue him a work visa.”
Galvan played from 2008 to 2012 for Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv, then moved to Maccabi Petah Tikva. In 2014, he scored his 71st goal in the Israeli top league, becoming its highest scoring foreign player.
Galvan spoke up for Israel when the match between his native Argentina’s national squad and his adopted country was in doubt last year due to pressure from the Palestinians.
“We have the number one army of the world, the number one intelligence, it is very safe here. There is no safer place than Israel. If I said here it is heaven… you will think I’m exaggerating. Argentina must come here, the team will have more security than [Prime Minister Benjamin] ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu,” he told the TNT news channel in June.
Ultimately, the match was canceled.
JTA contributed to this report