Organizers of an aborted Israel-Argentina soccer match accused Qatar of convincing Argentina’s national team to pull out of the hotly anticipated exhibition, which was canceled earlier this week reportedly due to security scares and a Palestinian pressure campaign.
The sold-out game scheduled for Saturday night was called off after a concerted campaign by Palestinian politicians and supporters calling on Argentina not to play in Jerusalem and after the team’s players received threats.
However, the Israeli firm that had been producing the game issued suspicions that Qatar also leaned on Argentina to pull out of the event and has stepped in to foot the bill for compensation the Argentinians will need to pay to the Israeli company which arranged the game, Hebrew media reported Thursday.
The final amount the Argentinians will need to pay has not been disclosed but it is expected to reach into the millions of dollars.
In addition to a reported $2.2 million in damages the Argentinians have already agreed to pay, Danny Benaim, whose ComtecGroup organized the game, has also demanded addition sums for aggravation caused to promoters and to fans who were expecting to see Argentinian’s superstar Lionel Messi play as captain of his national squad.
Organizers came to the conclusion that Qatar was involved because Argentinian officials did not seem bothered by the compensation demand, leading to suspicions that a very rich entity was behind them, Hadashot news television reported.
They did not offer any actual evidence of Qatari involvement.
Qatar denies any involvement in the matter, the station said.
Benaim, speaking to the Sport 5 television channel, denied a report in Argentinian media that Comtec had asked soccer’s governing body FIFA to expel Argentina from the World Cup tournament due to alleged religious discrimination.
Isolated by its neighbors but rich in oil, Qatar has invested heavily in Palestinian causes, and in particular in the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip following damage caused during the 2014 summer war between Israel and Palestinian terror groups led by Hamas.
The family of an IDF soldier whose remains were captured by Hamas during the 50-day conflict tweeted Thursday that Israel should stop allowing goods funded by Qatar from entering the Gaza Strip.
Leah and Simcha Goldin wrote that “Qatar strove against the Israeli government and caused Argentina and Messi to cancel the game. On the other hand, with the government’s support and management, hundreds of containers and tons of equipment manufactured and financed by Qatar enter the Kerem Shalom crossing directly into Hamas hands. In the face of terrorism we must not blink and certainly not to act with double standards.”
Hamas is believed to be holding the remains of two IDF soldiers who were killed in the fighting, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.