June 6 (UPI) — The Argentine Football Association has called off its friendly match against Israel over alleged threats directed at Lionel Messi.
The Israeli Embassy confirmed that the match was canceled on Tuesday, citing “threats and provocations” directed at the five-time Balon d’Or award winner.
The game was set to take place Saturday at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.
“The Israeli Embassy regrets to announce the suspension of the match between the national team of Israel and Argentina scheduled for next Saturday, June 9, as a prelude to the game for the World Cup in Russia,” the Embassy of Israel in Argentina said in a statement.
“Threats and provocations directed at Lionel Messi, which logically aroused the solidarity of their peers and the fear of achieving the friendly, are not alien to the daily life of the civilian population in Israel whose athletes, without going any further, have been on numerous occasions the object of violence and attacks.”
AFA president Claudio Tapia met with reporters Wednesday to discuss the cancelation. Tapia apologized to Argentines living in Israel, those who bought tickets and the players.
“Those who treat us as ignorant seem to underestimate us,” Tapia said. “We are facing a reality that takes 70 years. The experience in the last 72 hours, which is public knowledge, has led us to make the decision not to travel. My responsibility as president is to fight for the physical health of the entire delegation. It is nothing against the Israeli community. “
Argentina’s next match is against Iceland in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup on June 16 at Spartak Stadium in Moscow.