A soccer friendly between the Israeli and Argentinian national teams will be held in Jerusalem rather than Haifa, Argentinian media reported on Friday, finally settling the question of where the game would be played.
Two-time soccer world champion Argentina will travel to Israel next month to play a friendly game despite pressure from BDS activists.
The eventual decision to play the game at Jerusalem’s Teddy Kollek Stadium rather than at the Samy Ofer Stadium in Haifa was made after “intense political pressure,” according to a report from the Hadashot news television channel.
Until the Friday media reports it was unclear where the game was to be played, although the Argentinians had indicated their preference for the Haifa location.
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev said that the capital was the appropriate place to play such a prestigious game and quipped that it would give Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi a chance to pray at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.
“It can’t be that the Argentinian team comes to the country and it isn’t held in Jerusalem,” she said according to the report. “There is no such thing. After all, Messi is coming to pray at the Western Wall.”
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel last month launched a campaign to stop the June 9 match, including sending letters to Argentine sports figures.
A letter from the Argentinean Committee of Solidarity with Palestine to the Argentinean National Secretary of Sports and the Argentine Football Association said that canceling the match “would represent the solidarity values of the Argentine people towards other people’s victims of oppression, apartheid and genocide.”
The boycott campaign is using the motto “Argentina don’t go” to Israel, or #ArgentinaNoVayas.
Israeli fans will have the opportunity to see global stars Messi, who plays for Barcelona; Sergio “Kun” Aguero of Manchester City in the United Kingdom; and Angel Di Maria of Paris Saint-Germain.
The match comes just one week before the start of the World Cup, so the Argentines will fly directly from Israel to Russia.
Messi also serves as the brand ambassador for Israeli startup company Sirin Labs, which develops mobile phone security software.