The Argentinian national football team cancelled an upcoming match with the Zionist team in occupied Al-Quds on June 9, Argentine news sources reported.
The ambassador of Palestine in Argentina, Husni Abdel Wahed, had expressed his opposition to the fixture.
“This match would be similar to us celebrating … the occupation of Malvinas,” he told Radio Cooperativa on Tuesday, referring to the Falkland Islands.
Abdel Wahed went on to say that the match was part of the celebrations of Zionist entity’s 70th anniversary since its establishment in 1948, after hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their villages and lands by Zionist paramilitaries.
“For us, it is unacceptable to hold this game in Jerusalem because it is occupied territory, and it is painful to see that the team, which has the love and support of so many Palestinians and Arab citizens, support the violation of international law,” he said.
As a first response from an Israeli cabinet minister, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman slammed the Argentina national football team for cancelling the match, calling it a ‘surrender to hate’. “It’s a shame that Argentina’s footballing nobility did not withstand the pressure from Israeli-hating inciters,” he wrote on Twitter.
However, news of cancellation sparked cheers in Gaza.
The Palestinian Football Association thanked Messi and his teammates for their decision.
“The Palestinian FA thanks Argentina’s players led by star Messi for refusing to be used to serve a non-sporting goal,” Rajoub said in a statement. “Values, morals and sport have secured a victory today and a red card was raised at Israel through the cancellation of the game.”
At the entrance to the news conference was a placard saying “From Palestine, thank you Messi” with Argentinian and Palestinian flags, under a big photo of Rajoub posing with the Barcelona ace.
The Palestinian Football Association (FA) had earlier called on Arab and Muslim sports fans to burn photos and T-shirts of Messi if he attended the friendly match.
Palestinian FA chairman Jibril Rajoub made the call after a protest outside the Argentinean representative’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, saying, “Messi. Don’t come. Don’t whitewash the face of racism.”
Last month, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement launched a campaign urging Argentina to pull out of the fixture. “There is nothing ‘friendly’ about military occupation and apartheid,” the movement said, which calls for mainly an end to the occupation of Palestine and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
Violence in Gaza has been running high since March 30, with Zionist troops facing series of peaceful protests, dubbed “The Great March of Return,” with relentless fire. More than 120 Palestinians have been martyred by Israeli occupation forces since then.