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Argentina’s soccer team will play in Israel

  • JackSportArgentina
The Argentine Football Association appears to have given the BDS movement against Israel the finger and confirmed that its national soccer team will play a pre-World Cup friendly against Israel in the Holy Land.
by JACK MILNER | May 17, 2018

The venue has yet to be decided, but the Teddy Kollek Stadium in Jerusalem and Samy Ofer Stadium in Haifa have been suggested as the most probable locations. The match is scheduled for June 9.

The BDS has not given up on its attempt to halt the match, but just like the first three stages of the Giro d’Italia, its calls have fallen on deaf ears. As part of its campaign, BDS has sent letters to Argentinian sports figures.

The letter from the Argentine Committee of Solidarity with Palestine to the Argentinian National Secretary of Sports and the Argentine Football Association says that cancelling the match “would represent the solidarity values of the Argentine people towards other people’s victims of oppression, apartheid and genocide”.

The boycott campaign is using the motto “Argentina, don’t go”.

However, on Sunday, Argentina’s main sport national television channel, TyC Sports, announced that it would broadcast the match live. The Israeli event organiser, Cometc, also published details of the match on its website.

The match will give Israeli fans the opportunity to see global stars Lionel Messi, who plays for Barcelona, Sergio “Kun” Aguero of Manchester City and Angel Di Maria of Paris Saint-Germain. The match comes just one week before the start of the World Cup, so the Argentines will fly directly from Israel to Russia.

Messi, as it happens, serves as the brand ambassador for an Israeli start-up company.

This is not the first time the Argentinian team has played in Israel. In 1986, the team played against Israel in the last friendly before that year’s World Cup. Argentina won 7-2 in Ramat Gan and then the team, led by Diego Maradona, won the World Cup in Mexico.

In 1990 again, with Carlos Bilardo as a coach and Maradona on the team, Israel played Argentina in the last friendly match of the season. Argentina won 2-1 before the World Cup in Italy, where Argentina lost in the final against Germany. In 1994, coach Alfio Basile also chose to play against Israel before the US World Cup.

“We need to learn from Argentina. We in Israel are doing everything well, except the way we play soccer,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said two months ago, when he revealed that he is a big fan of Argentinian soccer stars Maradona and Messi.

In a video message, young Palestinian footballer Mohammed Khalil has appealed to the Argentinian national football team, including captain Lionel Messi, to cancel the friendly match. Khalil, from Gaza, was said to have been shot by an Israeli sniper in the knee at the beginning of this month, ending his promising football career.

BDS claims the Israeli government has agreed to pay $3 million (R38 million) to host the match.

BDS, however, can’t appeal to any of the international soccer bodies as friendly matches do not fall under the auspices of FIFA, the international football federation, and are an agreement between the two national associations.

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