Israel rejects timing of Argentina-Uruguay soccer game planned for next month
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Israel rejects timing of Argentina-Uruguay soccer game planned for next month

National soccer federation tells FIFA that international friendly scheduled for November 19 in Tel Aviv will clash with national teams’ away games

Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi reacts during the UEFA Champions League football match between SK Slavia Prague and FC Barcelona in Prague, Czech Republic on October 23, 2019. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi reacts during the UEFA Champions League football match between SK Slavia Prague and FC Barcelona in Prague, Czech Republic on October 23, 2019. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Israeli soccer’s governing body has requested that next month’s friendly game between Argentina and Uruguay be moved or canceled, citing fears it will draw attention from matches Israeli teams have on the same day.

The Israel Football Association said Tuesday that it asked international soccer bodies FIFA and UEFA to move the game scheduled for November 19 in Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium because two of Israel’s national soccer teams are scheduled to play away games on that day.

In a Facebook post, the IFA said the national team was playing a 2020 European Championships qualifying game against North Macedonia, while the national under-21 team was slated to play a qualifier against Spain.

The IFA said it relayed its “unequivocal” opposition to the Argentina-Uruguay game, which was announced last week, and said it would gladly host the friendly on a day that did not coincide with Israeli matches.

File: Israel national football team players training in Tel Aviv on Sept. 4, 2013. (Flash90)

Argentina had originally been scheduled to play Israel’s national team in June 2018 in Jerusalem just before the World Cup in Russia, but the match was canceled to due pressure from the Israel boycott movement.

Argentina’s national team is led by the superstar player Lionel Messi, who currently plays for the Spanish team Barcelona. The head of the Palestinian Football Association launched a campaign at the time to stop Argentina’s national team from playing in Israel, calling on Arab soccer fans to burn Messi posters and jerseys if he participated in the game.

Jibril Rajoub’s campaign led to Argentina canceling the World Cup warm-up match in Jerusalem. Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said at the time that players felt “totally attacked, violated” after images emerged of the team’s white and sky-blue striped jerseys stained with red paint resembling blood.

The cancellation led to political fallout, and to FIFA fining and slapping a 12-month ban on Rajoub for “inciting hatred and violence” against Messi.

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)

The punishment marked an embarrassing blow for Rajoub, who has long lobbied FIFA to sanction Israel for what he has called its restriction of movement of Palestinian players.

Israel has rejected the Palestinian campaign as an attempt to politicize sports and has cited security concerns as the reason the restrictions placed on Palestinian players, particularly in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

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