Argentina cancel friendly in Israel amid protests, officials say

Lionel Messi Poses with Goats While Saying He's Not the G.O.A.T.

Argentina's Lionel Messi eyes the ball during the 2018 World Cup football qualifier match against Ecuador in Quito, on October 10, 2017.

"(We) apologize. It's nothing against the Israeli community, the Jewish community and I would like everyone to take this decision as a contribution to world peace", he said. The US embassy was moved there last month.

He apologized to Israelis who had purchased tickets.

Messi, who has already guided Barcelona to La Liga and Copa del Rey title this season, will eye for worldwide honour when Argentina kick start their campaign against Iceland on June 16.

Until now, the South Americans had been scheduled to contest a friendly with Israel in Jerusalem on Saturday as their final warm-up before the World Cup.

That's why Maradona is still considered the best player in Argentina, because he was a World Cup champion. "We want to focus on what is really important and which is before us", a federation spokesman told AFP in Barcelona.

The match, which was to be Argentina's final game before the start of their World Cup campaign in Russian Federation later this month, was set to be played at a stadium in West Jerusalem.

But its status had been placed in doubt earlier, following protests by Palestinian football authorities who had urged Messi not to take part.

Pro-Palestinian activists staged a demonstration on Tuesday in front of the sports complex where Lionel Messi and the rest of the Argentina squad are preparing.

Some waved tops of the Argentina's national team stained with fake blood.

The cancellation was seen as a victory for the global Palestinian anti-Israel boycott campaign.

"Argentina is going to play on an occupied land of Palestine, so it should bear the diplomatic and sporting consequences; the occupying state has hundreds of stadiums but choosing one in the (Palestinian) village of al-Malha with Messi participating is a propaganda work to demonstrate Israeli right to Jerusalem".

The Palestinian Football Association also welcomed the development. "I think it's three or four times now we've been drawn with Nigeria and it will be a hard group". It increases the pressure and reduces the possibility of reaching them.

Both national football teams have yet to make an official announcement of the cancellation, but the Argentine outlet Minuto Uno reported that the Argentina Football Association (AFA) will formally call off the match.

"The game was canceled for one reason only - threats to the life of the star Messi", Israeli Sports Minister Miri Regev said at a news conference Wednesday, showing photos of threatening posters she said were sent to Argentine players and coaches.

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