Diplomacy

Argentine FM: Threats to Soccer Team for Game in Israel Worse than Those from ISIS

The friendly soccer match between Argentina’s and Israel’s national soccer teams scheduled in Jerusalem was cancelled, after Argentine players received greater threats than those previously made by ISIS, the Argentine Foreign Minister said during an interview with Radio Mitre, La Agencia Judia de Noticias reported Wednesday (Spanish link).

The foreign minister, Jorge Faurie, lamented the cancellation and said the players were uncomfortable about traveling to Israel due to a series of threats they received on themselves and their families from supporters of the boycott movement.

On Tuesday, protesters outside the Barcelona training facility—where the Argentine national soccer team has been practicing for the FIFA World Cup—held Argentinian soccer jerseys stained with red paint resembling blood.

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

“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. “These included video clips showing dead children.”

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas senior officials welcomed the match cancellation.

The head of the Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub had urged Palestinians to burn photos and jerseys of Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi if the game was played. The Palestinian FA had also threatened Argentina’s bid to host the FIFA World Cup 2030 over the soccer match in Israel.

After the game was officially cancelled, the Israel Football Association said that they would take action against the PA in international forums after the “brutal and physical threats against the Argentine team.” The Association’s vice president Rotem Kamer accused the Palestinian Football Association of “Football [soccer] terror.”

Efforts to get the game back on track included Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling Argentina President Mauricio Macri, although it has been reported that Macri told Netanyahu that the matter was out of his hands.

At a press conference in Barcelona, Claudio Tapia, the president of the Argentine soccer association, said about the cancellation: “It’s nothing against the Israeli community, it’s nothing against the Jewish community,” adding that he hoped “everyone will take this decision as a contribution to peace.” He continued: “The last 72 hours led us to make the decision not to travel,” emphasizing that his main responsibility was to watch out for the health and safety of the players.

Three years ago, Rajoub led an effort to expel Israel from FIFA, the governing body of international soccer. Then FIFA President Sepp Blatter blocked the move. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Palestinian effort at the time saying, “The thing that could destroy the Football Association is politicizing it. You politicize it once with Israel, then you politicize it for everyone, and it will cause the deterioration of a great institution.”

Last year, FIFA deferred action on a Palestinian-led effort to penalize Israel for having teams on the West Bank.

In FIFA, the Palestinians, and the Future of World Football, which was published in the June 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Aiden Pink observed:

Rajoub’s gambit was another facet of the Palestinian Authority’s escalating efforts to isolate and delegitimize Israel in bodies like the UN Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court—politicizing organizations that could theoretically serve a noble purpose if they weren’t so consumed with anti-Israel animus.

In addition to his efforts to expel Israel from FIFA, Rajoub has a long record of anti-Israel rhetoric, including naming sporting tournaments in honor of terrorists, regularly comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, and calling a football match between Israeli and Palestinian children “a crime against humanity.”

[Photo: Sivson ayeisp / YouTube ]