Argentina cancels match with Israel amid protests

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The global friendly on Saturday was initially meant to be played in the city of Haifa, but was shifted to Jerusalem, fuelling Palestinian opposition.

The Argentines have played just five times since the conclusion of their qualifying campaign in November, the last of which being a 4-0 win over Haiti in May.

"We welcome news that [Argentina's] "friendly" football match with Israel has been canceled!".

Mr Rajoub told journalists that he had written to Argentina's government asking that the player not take part.

"This match has become a political tool".

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

New York City-based magazine PAPER has taken Lionel Messi's status as football's GOAT one step further by pairing the Barcelona forward with a number of the animals for a photoshoot.

"We still hope that Messi will not come", Rajoub said. 'We ask him not to participate in laundering the crimes of the occupation'.

Israel has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks, after at least 120 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during protests in Gaza.

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

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Argentine player Gonzalo Higuaín told ESPN, "We believe that the right thing to do was not go". "It's now behind us, obviously our health and common sense comes first. We felt that it wasn't right to go".

Argentina will begin its quest for a World Cup title against Iceland on June 16.

It is unclear whether Argentina will play another warm-up, or arrive in Moscow ahead of schedule.

Palestinians celebrated the game's cancellation.

The Palestinian football chief hailed it as a victory for "values, morals and sport".

In Gaza, people cheered and in Ramallah in the West Bank, the Palestinian FA issued a statement thanking Messi and his colleagues for cancelling the game, saying: "The Palestinian FA thanks Argentina's players led by star Messi for refusing to be used to serve a non-sporting goal".

For more than a decade, they've led an global campaign to boycott Israel as a means to pressure the Jewish state to change its policies toward the Palestinians. It has formed a government ministry whose primary mission is to combat the boycott movement.

Addressing claims that the Argentinean team refused to arrive because of the decision to move the game to Jerusalem, the sports minister said: "That's nonsense which legitimizes terror and the BDS campaign".

Alon Liel, a former director-general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, saw the dustup as fallout from the embassy move.

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.

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