Argentina football stars are to play at Jerusalem’s Teddy Kollek Stadium on Saturday night in a World Cup warm-up match which has attracted Israeli fans, mainly because of world champion, Lionel Messi’s planned participation.
But the Palestinians are not happy that the match will be held in Jerusalem and have threatened to burn Messi’s shirts.
The Palestine Football Association chief, Jibril Rajoub wrote to Claudio Tapia, the head of the Argentinian FA, last week accusing Israel of using the match as a “political tool”.
“The Israeli government has turned a regular sports match into a political tool. As was widely covered in Argentinian media, the match now is being played in order to celebrate the ‘70th anniversary of the State of Israel’,” part of Rajoub’s letter said.
Rajoub declared a campaign against Argentina and particularly Messi, noting he has millions of fans across the Arab and Islamic world, Asia and Africa.
“He’s a big symbol so we are going to target him personally and we call on all to burn his picture and his shirt and to abandon him. We still hope that Messi will not come,” he told reporters after leaving the Argentinian representative office in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
The stadium that will host the match is in west Jerusalem. The Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as the capital of a future state that will include the Gaza Strip and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. However, the status of the city generally is highly sensitive.
The match was originally slated to be played in Haifa but Israeli authorities contributed funding for it to be moved to Jerusalem, irking Palestinians further.
This is in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital. The U.S. embassy was moved there last month.