Even the score

Sports minister seems to take shot at Argentina after World Cup blowout

Miri Regev, who took brunt of blame for Argentinian team’s cancellation of warm-up game in Jerusalem, says those who oppose Israel will meet defeat

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on June 10, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev appeared to take a shot at Argentina Friday following its crushing 3-0 defeat to Croatia at the World Cup a day earlier.

Regev — who received a large share of the blame for the Argentinian team’s cancellation of its friendly game in Israel earlier this month — wrote on Facebook, “What goes around comes around.” (In Hebrew, what she wrote literally was “The ball is round.”) The statement was accompanied by a winking emoji.

Regev went on to say that whether it be incendiary kites from Gaza, boycotts (she did not elaborate) or other attacks on the Jewish state, this week’s ‘Chukat’ Torah portion “reminds us that then and now, when it comes to Israel, who ever messes [with us] crashes.”

She continued: “Thank God we are witnessing how our steadfast stance on the righteousness of our path is also influencing the nations of the world, and how the our enemies’ efforts to harm us are met with defeat again and again. We will continue to believe, work and win. Shabbat shalom.”

Regev took fire early this month after Argentina nixed its World Cup preparation game in Israel, with critics blaming her for moving the match to Jerusalem from Haifa. Argentina’s foreign minister cited the game’s location for the decision to pull out of the game, though he earlier said Argentinian players were nervous after receiving threats ahead of the scheduled match.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi, center looks down after Croatia’s Luka Modric scored his side’s second goal during the group D match between Argentina and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Novgorod, Russia, June 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

The head of the Palestinian soccer federation, Jibril Rajoub, had said that Israel’s insistence on holding the match in Jerusalem turned it into a “political tool,” and urged Arab and Muslim sports fans to burn photos and T-shirts of star player Lionel Messi if the game went ahead. FIFA has since announced the opening of disciplinary proceedings against Rajoub.

Opposition lawmakers blamed Regev’s insistence on holding the game in Jerusalem for Argentina’s decision to cancel and a television poll said a majority of Israelis felt she should not have insisted the game be held in the disputed capital city.

Regev remained defiant, however, saying pro-Palestinian activists’ death threats against Messi, and not the relocation, led to the cancellation.

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/ Hazem Bader)

Despite high expectations for the Argentinian team at the World Cup, it was clobbered 3-0 Thursday by Crotia following its lackluster 1-1 tie to Iceland in the opening game, leaving its aspirations to advance from the group stage hanging by a thread.

In the first match, Messi missed a crucial penalty shot that would have put Argentina up, prompting Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to suggest the miss was due to the team’s withdrawal from the game in Israel.

Argentina’s Lionel Messi covers his face during the group D match between Argentina and Iceland at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Spartak Stadium in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, June 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)

“In the Argentina against Iceland game we saw just how much Messi needed the warm-up game against Israel,” Liberman tweeted after the missed shot.

Arab Israeli lawmaker Ahmad Tibi also linked the penalty miss to the withdrawal from the Israel game, tweeting a poll asking, “Who was happier that Messi missed his penalty today?” The options were Messi’s arch-rival from Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Regev.

Despite its poor start, Argentina still has a hope of advancing to the next round if it wins over Nigeria in its next game.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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