Argentina calls off game against Israel after protests

Argentinian Presidency shows President Mauricio Macri (L) bidding farewell to Argentinian national football team forward Lionel Messi, at the Argentine Football Association (AFA) training facilities in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires on May 30, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2018
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Argentina calls off game against Israel after protests

  • The Palestinians have also been outraged by President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
  • Palestinian village destroyed during the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina: Argentina has called off a World Cup warmup match against Israel following protests by pro-Palestinian groups.
A source at Argentina’s football federation on Tuesday confirmed the cancelation of the international friendly scheduled to be played Saturday at Teddy Kollek Stadium in Jerusalem. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they did not have permission to comment.
The head of the Palestinian football association, Jibril Rajoub, had urged Argentina to cancel the match and had called on Arab soccer fans to burn posters of Argentina captain Lionel Messi if he participated.
Although the stadium that was slated to host the match is in west Jerusalem, Rajoub had complained that it is situated in a neighborhood built on the site of a former Palestinian village destroyed during the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948. Rajoub has long urged FIFA to expel Israel from the international football federation, citing Israeli travel restrictions on Palestinian soccer players and because Israel maintains teams in West Bank settlements.
The cancelation came hours after pro-Palestinian activists staged a demonstration in front of the sports complex in Barcelona where Argentina is preparing ahead of the World Cup. Some waved the white and sky-blue striped jersey of Argentina’s national team stained with red paint resembling blood.
“In the end, they’ve done right thing, and this is behind us,” Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain told ESPN. “Health and common sense come first. We felt that it wasn’t right to go.”
Argentina opens its Group D campaign in Russia against Iceland on June 16. It then plays Croatia on June 21 and Nigeria on June 26. It is unclear whether Argentina will play another warmup, or if it will arrive to Moscow ahead of schedule.
There was no immediate reaction on the cancelation of the friendly game from Israel. But the Israeli news site Ynet reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had called Argentine president Mauricio Macri and urged him to intervene.
Officials at the Argentine president’s office declined to comment on the issue.
The cancelation was seen as a victory for the global Palestinian anti-Israel boycott campaign. The grassroots movement advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel in what supporters say is a way to promote Palestinian rights through nonviolent means.
But Israel says the campaign goes beyond Israeli occupation of lands claimed by the Palestinians and masks a deeper aim of delegitimizing or even destroying the country. It has formed a government ministry whose primary mission is to combat the boycott movement.
The boycott movement welcomed the cancelation. It said the Argentinian team responded to “creative campaigning” denouncing what it called Israel’s “sports-washing of its crimes against Palestinians.”
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed the area in a move not recognized by the international community. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
The Palestinians have also been outraged by President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his decision to move the US Embassy to the city.
The Argentine decision may also have been influenced by deadly violence along the Israeli-Gaza border. More than 115 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 3,700 more wounded during near-weekly protests along the Israeli border, according to Palestinian health officials. The vast majority of casualties have been unarmed.


World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah ‘is ready to play against Russia’

Updated 28 min 54 sec ago
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World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah ‘is ready to play against Russia’

  • Liverpool star took part in full training
  • Egypt team manager says Salah is poised to make his World Cup bow

ST. PETERSBURG: Mohamed Salah is a looming obstacle as Russia attempt to virtually secure their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
Fears that poor performances from the home side could dampen enthusiasm in the host nation were blown away by a 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia in the opening game.
The seven-time African champions will pose a much tougher task, but a lot will depend upon Salah's fitness.
Liverpool star Salah has not featured since leaving the field in tears early in the Champions League final just over three weeks ago after landing heavily on his left shoulder and had to watch from the bench as Egypt lost 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening game.
Salah has been declared 100 percent fit by Egypt's team doctor and his agent, leaving little doubt he will be thrown back into action in the Pharaohs' hour of need.
However, as he returned to training on Saturday, Salah was seen by AFP reporters at Egypt's training camp in Grozny needing help from teammates to lift a training top over his head.
"Salah participated in training with his teammates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff," Egypt's team manager Ihab Leheta told FIFA.com.
Egypt coach Hector Cuper's decision not to risk Salah against Uruguay may have been influenced by the fact his side held out for 89 minutes before conceding to Jose Gimenez, by which time the Argentine had made all three of his substitutions.
"Russia's game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat against Uruguay," said Leheta. "Winning is our only choice".
If fully fit, the sight of Salah, who scored 44 goals in a remarkable debut season at Liverpool, will strike fear into the Russians.
Concerns Russia could become just the second host nation to bow out of the World Cup at the group stage after a seven-game winless run ahead of the tournament have been alleviated by a perfect start.
With Uruguay favourites to top the group, though, Russia are keen not to have to rely on getting something from their final group game against the two-time former world champions.
"The second game will be our most important one in the group stage," said Russia's deputy prime minister and former football federation president Vitaly Mutko after attending Russia's training session on Sunday.
A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, Mutko oversaw preparations for the tournament at a cost of more than $13 billion.
"In the first match, everyone saw how much the players cared. If we play up to our level, I don't see any problems."
Denis Cheryshev was Russia's hero against Saudi Arabia as he came off the bench to score twice.
And the Villarreal winger accepted it will be a more "interesting" clash if Salah is fit.
"If he's not there, does that mean our task becomes easy? Not at all," he told FIFA.com "If he plays, it will be hard but more interesting. He's one of the best and you always want to compete with the best and win."
Russia will be without one of their key players, with Alan Dzagoev expected to miss the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury.