Jerusalem Was Main Issue in World Cup Warm-up's Cancellation, Argentine FM Says

Jorge Faurie contradicted the remarks of Culture Minister Miri Regev, who claimed that her demand to hold the game in the capital had nothing to do with canceling Argentina’s arrival in Israel

Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie, May 22, 2018.
Bloomberg

Argentina’s foreign minister said Thursday that the friendly match between his country’s soccer team and Israel was supposed to take place in Haifa, and that the game’s cancellation was due in part to its transfer to Jerusalem.

Minister Jorge Faurie’s remarks contradict those of Minister of Culture and Sports Miri Regev, who said Wednesday that the move of the game to Jerusalem “was born because of Messi’s desire to visit Jerusalem.”

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According to Faurie, “The game was supposed to take place in Haifa. The noise around the game was created because of the transfer to Jerusalem, and also because of its proximity to the transfer of the U.S. embassy in Israel to the city.”

He added that the threats to the team’s players, headed by Lionel Messi, came in the wake of the moving of the game to Jerusalem. “One can understand the concern of the players, some of whom have families,” said Faurie, who stressed that Argentina has no problem with Israel. “The team played there more than once.” argentina

Regev rejected the claims that her demand to hold the game at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, rather than in Haifa, led to the cancellation of the game. “There is no greater lie than that,” said the Minister of Culture and Sport.

“The Argentinians never objected to the game in Jerusalem. [The move] was born because of Messi’s desire to visit Jerusalem, kiss the Western Wall and visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The real story is not Haifa or Jerusalem but the threats to Messi’s life.”

On Wednesday, Haaretz reported that the Argentine national team would have played the game in Israel had it been held in Haifa, as had been arranged in the first place. The team, headed by coach Jorge Sampaoli, did not want to go from Barcelona to Israel, on their way to the World Cup in Russia, but when the game in Israel was decided on due to economic considerations, their preference was for Haifa.

Argentine newspaper ‘Clarín’ reported yesterday that according to official sources, Argentine President Mauricio Macri has examined the issue with the Argentine Football Association, and found that “the players do not want to play in Israel because of the threats to Messi.”