Palestinian FA President Jibril Rajoub has hailed the cancellation of the Argentina-Israel friendly as a “red card from everybody to the Israelis,” sitting next to a sign reading “From Palestine thank you Messi.”
Filistin Futbol Federasyonu Başkanı Jibril Rajoub: "Lionel Messi ve Arjantin, İsrail ırkçılığına tokat gibi bir cevap verdi. Maçın Kudüs'te yapılması için milyonlar döken İsrail cevabını aldı. Bu spor için bir zafer günü." pic.twitter.com/Pl0OxzlbnE— Sporx (@sporx) June 6, 2018
Rajoub had previously said photos and shirts of the Barcelona star should be burned if the match went ahead.
It’s unclear if Lionel Messi had any role in the decision. Argentina’s foreign minister, Jorge Faurie, said “the players of the national team were not willing to play the game,” but he did not say which players or why they had misgivings about the match.
Forward Gonzalo Higuaín said “in the end, we were able to do the right thing. It’s in the past now. The first thing is health and common sense. We think the right thing to do was not to go.”
Argentine FA President Claudio Tapia said the match was cancelled for security reasons. “My responsibility,” he said, “is the health and safety of the Argentine delegation.”
“I would like that, starting now,” Tapia went on to say, “everyone takes my decision [to cancel the Israel match] as a contribution to world peace.”
Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli had refused to be drawn into a comment about the security or political situation, but he did say he preferred not to travel to Israel for sporting reasons.
Rajoub said the Palestinian protest against the match only happened when the Israelis decided to “turn it into a political event” by moving the game from Haifa to Jerusalem.
Israel maintains the match was cancelled due to threats from terror groups, and The Times of Israel reports the Israeli FA will launch a complaint to FIFA.