Israel’s upcoming friendly soccer match against Argentina’s national team, led by Lionel Messi, will go ahead despite rumors it had been in jeopardy after players balked at traveling to the Jewish state for the game over security fears, Hebrew media reported Wednesday.
The Ynet news website reported that organizers were considering moving the game, which will be the squad’s last practice before the World Cup, from Jerusalem to Spain. Argentinean President Mauricio Macri, who had been scheduled to travel to Israel to attend the game also reportedly considered canceling his trip.
The report comes after a week of intense violence along the Gaza border, in which 62 Palestinians were said killed during protests. At least 53 of them were members of terror groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said.
However, an Israeli organizer later told Ynet that the reports were false and the June 9 game was still on, though it may be moved from Jerusalem to Haifa.
A final decision about the location of the match will reportedly be announced on Friday.
The match against Messi-led Argentina, ranked fifth in the world, has been eagerly anticipated in Israel.
The match comes just one week before the start of the World Cup, so the Argentines will fly directly from Israel to Russia.
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.
The boycott campaign sponsored by BDS Argentina is using the motto “Argentina don’t go” to Israel, or #ArgentinaNoVayas.
Watch! Palestinian footballer shot by Israeli sniper in Gaza urges @Argentina team & Lionel Messi to cancel "friendly" match with Israel. ►Tell Argentina: There's #NothingFriendly about Israel shooting Palestinian footballers! https://t.co/Ye2WZXXGSf #Nakba70 #GreatReturnMarch pic.twitter.com/s0OurrrP0N
— PACBI (@PACBI) May 15, 2018
Another campaign launched Tuesday with the hashtag #NothingFriendly featured a video made by Palestinian soccer player Mohammed Khalil who claimed he was shot by Israeli snipers while taking part in the March of Return protests on the Gaza border. Khalil played a video he was filming when he was shot, and then showed his legs bandaged after surgery.
Khalil called on Messi and the team to stand in solidarity with Palestinians and not to play in Israel.