Terror threats to Messi see World Cup warm-up match cancelled

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"I call on the Argentinian team and especially captain Lionel Messi-because he is very popular in Palestine, particularly in the Gaza Strip-to stand in Solidarity with Palestinians and to boycott the scheduled game with Israel, which is occupying our land", Obeid said.

"For us, it is unacceptable to hold this game in Jerusalem because it is occupied territory, and it is painful to see that the team, which has the love and support of so many Palestinians and Arab citizens, support the violation of worldwide law", he said.

The Palestinians celebrated the cancellation as a major triumph. A petition cited "Israel's long record of human rights abuses, on and off the field", and also referenced the recent Israeli sniper shooting of Palestinian soccer player Mohammed Khalil while he was peacefully protesting during the March of Great Return.

In the United States, European football is called soccer. Many people were hoping to see Messi, one of the game's stars, in person.

Rajoub told journalists he had written to Argentina's government asking that Messi not take part in the June 9 friendly.

Media reports say Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Argentine President Mauricio Macri in an attempt to salvage the friendly tie, due to be played in Jerusalem on Saturday. But his efforts were unsuccessful.

Israeli Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev said on Wednesday that players had received threats from "terror groups".

"It's a shame that Argentina's footballing nobility did not withstand the pressure from Israeli-hating inciters", he wrote on Twitter in the first response from an Israeli cabinet minister. He added that their "only goal is to harm our basic right to self-defense and bring about the destruction of Israel".

Israel's Football Association accused the Palestinians of crossing a "red line" by inciting anger towards the Argentinian players in order to scupper the match.

After the game was officially cancelled, the Israel Football Association said that they would take action against the PA in worldwide forums after the "brutal and physical threats against the Argentine team".

Last year, Federation Internationale de Football Association deferred action on a Palestinian-led effort to penalize Israel for having teams on the West Bank.

The sold-out game in Jerusalem was hotly opposed by Palestinians, who claim the eastern part of the city, occupied and later annexed by Israel, as the capital of their future state.

Following the move, Rajoub spoke with reporters in Ramallah.

Rajoub had accused Israel of playing politics with the game, by moving it from its original location in Haifa to Jerusalem, and by trying to link it to celebrations surrounding Israel's 70th anniversary. "They tried to use sport as a tool for political ends, and for this I think, they failed", Rajoub said.

"This was all part of the Israeli apartheid regime's sports-washing policy to use worldwide sporting events to cover up its war crimes", Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, said.

"Since they announced they would play against Israel, different terror groups have been sending messages and letters to players on the Argentina national team and their relatives, including clear threats to hurt them and on the lives of their families", Regev said.

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