Argentina have cancelled Israel friendly amid ‘threats’ against Lionel Messi

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Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli last week aired misgivings about having his players make the trip to Israel, noting he preferred to remain in Barcelona, where the team is holding its pre-World Cup training camp. "As was widely covered in Argentinian media, the match now is being played in order to celebrate the '70th anniversary of the State of Israel",' part of Rajoub's letter said.

The press in Argentina and Israel reported that the Argentine Football Association (AFA) was supposed to receive a payment of between two and three million dollars if Messi played.

Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub had been calling on people to burn the shirt of Argentina superstar Lionel Messi in protest against the game going ahead.

The game, Argentina's final warm-up before the World Cup, was to be played in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Malha, which is situated on the site of a former Palestinian village that was destroyed during the war that established Israel 70 years ago. Thousands more are believed to have been injured during the incident.

In an interview with the ESPN sports channel, Argentinean striker Gonzalo Higuain confirmed the cancellation, saying, "They've finally done the right thing". "Rationale and health come before everything else. We always aim to win and we will try to go slowly but strongly to advance in the competition".

Argentina opens against Iceland in Group D on June 16.

The Palestinians opposed the decision to hold the match in Jerusalem, accusing Israel of seeking to use the event, and especially the presence of global star Messi, to underpin Israel's claim to the Holy City.

Local media had reported earlier Tuesday that the game was set to be scrapped, depriving Messi and his team-mates of a final warm-up game before they open their World Cup campaign in Russian Federation.

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President Reuven Rivlin blamed Argentina for allowing political considerations to influence into their decision and for caving in to the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.

The game, however, coming after a brutal crackdown on protests in Jerusalem after the United States moved its embassy to the disputed capital, was the focus for huge criticism from Palestinian and human rights groups.

"Messi is a symbol of peace and love", Rajoub said.

The match, which was slated for 9 June, was set to be played in Jerusalem's Teddy Kollek Stadium but had drawn intense reactions, especially from Palestinians.

According to Daily Mail, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu called Argentine President, Mauricio Macri, to ask him to persuade the team not to cancel their visit.

The Argentine decision may also have been influenced by deadly violence along the Israeli-Gaza border.

At least 125 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire on the frontier since March 30.

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