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    Argentina's Lionel Messi reacts during a World Cup qualifying soccer match against Peru at La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017.

    Italian Dep. PM Backs Israel As Argentina Scraps Game in Jerusalem Amid Threats

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    The leader of the Lega party, Matteo Salvini, who recently took the office of deputy prime minister and interior minister, has expressed solidarity with Israel, slamming hatred and violence hindering a peaceful event as Argentina pulled out from a pre-World Cup warm-up game in Jerusalem, citing serious threats to players as the reason.

    The Italian Embassy in Tel-Aviv has retweeted words of support to Israel over a scrapped Argentina match from the country’s newly appointed deputy prime minister and interior minister, Matteo Salvini. The leader of the right-wing Lega Nord party, who was sworn in on June 2, encouraged the Israeli culture and sport minister.

    ​This split commentators on Twitter. While some support the move, others prefer to distance themselves from Salvini’s statement.

    ​The match between Israel and Argentina was to take place in Jerusalem on June 9 in a friendly warm up pre-World Cup game, but the Argentinians were forced to pull out due to reasons of “health, personal safety and the safety of the entire delegation,” according to the head of the Argentine Football Association, Claudio Tapia.

    READ MORE: Argentina Drops Friendly With Israel Amid 'Threats' to Messi, 'Provocations'

    Regev, who prior to the cancellation boasted that Messi would “kiss the Western Wall” and “shake hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” according to The Washington Post, stated that Argentina’s decision was “down to one reason, terrorism.”

    However, Israeli opposition MKs said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev were to blame for the escalation of tensions and eventual cancellation of the anticipated football event. The president of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, also argued that the official politicized the game, which is supposed to be free of politics.

    The cancellation was proceeded with BDS protests at the team’s training site in Barcelona and calls from the Palestinian Football Association “to burn their Messi shirts and pictures and renounce him” if the match takes place.

    READ MORE: Israel Vows to File Complaint Against Palestinians Over Scrapped Argentina Match

    The cancellation triggered an uproar on social media, as some slammed the threats made toward the sports figures.

    ​Others praised the Argentinians for the decision, which some commentators viewed as a protest against Israeli actions.

    ​In the wake of the scandal, Regev also fueled debates around another major international event, which Israel is to host next year: the Eurovision song contest. She contended that Israel would pass on hosting the competition if it is not held in Jerusalem for political reasons.

    “It will cost Israel NIS 50 million ($14 million) and is designed to market the country,” she said. “So I personally say, if the Eurovision won’t be held in Jerusalem, it’s not right to invest the NIS 50 million in public funds,” she told the Israeli broadcaster Kan, stating that the Israeli capital is Jerusalem.


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    football, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 2018 FIFA World Cup, Lionel Messi, Palestinian Territories, Argentina, Israel
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