Argentina have refused to play Israel in what was to be their final World Cup warm-up match.
Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuaín confirmed the news on Tuesday in an interview with ESPN saying, “They’ve finally done the right thing.”
No reaction from Israeli authorities; Palestinians celebrate
There was no hard reaction from the concerned Israeli authorities or from Israeli politicians. Israel Radio had previously broadcasted, quoting an unnamed Argentinian diplomat, that the chances of the fixture actually happening were slim.
Reportedly, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called the Argentinian President Mauricio Macri in an attempt to persuade him to send his team to Jerusalem.
The scheduled match had attracted huge interest among Israeli fans, mainly because of Lionel Messi’s planned participation.
On the other hand, the cancellation of the controversial match was celebrated among the Palestinians. Gaza and Ramallah came to life, for the first time in many months, when they heard the news. The Palestinian Football Association also issued a statement thanking Lionel Messi and his team for cancelling the game.
“The Palestinian FA thanks Argentina’s players led by star Messi for refusing to be used to serve a non-sporting goal,” it read.
The Palestinian FA chairman, Jibril Rajoub, said: “Values, morals and sport have secured a victory today and a red card was raised at Israel through the cancellation of the game.”
READ MORE: Pakistan’s 10 richest people
Argentina’s World Cup dream hanging by a thin thread
The Argentinian camp doesn’t look in a World Cup-winning form.
The cancellation of their warm-up match against Israel is just another obstacle for Argentina for their preparations have been facing a lot of troubles.
Only in March, Messi’s men suffered an embarrassing 6-1 defeat by the hands of Spain in a friendly and also lost their first-choice goalkeeper Sergio Romero to injury. The two-time World Cup winners are still hopeful, though.
Argentina face Iceland, Nigeria and Croatia in what is considered to be one of the hardest groups in the tournament.
A poster in the West Bank town of Hebron featuring Lionel Messi criticises the friendly between Israel and Argentina which was to be held in Jerusalem on Saturday. Photograph: Hazem Bader/AFP/Getty Images