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Israel demands FIFA probe Palestinian threats that led to Argentina cancellation

National soccer association calls on world body ‘to take action’ against soccer ‘terror’

Ofer Eini, President of the Israeli Football Association (IFA) takes part in a press conference on June 6, 2018, in Ramat Gan. (AFP / JACK GUEZ)
Ofer Eini, President of the Israeli Football Association (IFA) takes part in a press conference on June 6, 2018, in Ramat Gan. (AFP / JACK GUEZ)

Israel’s soccer association announced Wednesday it would file a complaint to FIFA, accusing its Palestinian counterpart of pressuring Argentinian players and staff into canceling a friendly match in Jerusalem and calling on the world body to investigate threats made by PA officials.

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 FIFA and the disciplinary committee to take action,” he said.

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.

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)

“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.

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.

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“The aim was to harm our country through soccer,” IFA Chairman Ofer Eini said.

“There is an issue of personal threats against players. If a politician publicly calls to burn a shirt, somebody could take it a step further. I don’t think that the people who run world soccer can ignore this,” he said.

The head of the Palestinian soccer organization Jibril Rajoub earlier in the week had urged Palestinians to burn photos and T-shirts of star player Messi if the game went ahead.

Rajoub on Wednesday welcomed the cancellation, pinning the decision by the Argentine team on the change of venue from Haifa to Jerusalem.

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