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Israel vs Argentina: Messi gets Palestine threat

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The Palestine Football Association head has urged fans to burn pictures, shirt of Argentina captain, Lionel Messi if he plays against Israel in Jerusalem next weekend.
Jorge Sampaoli’s men will play at Jerusalem’s Teddy Kollek Stadium on Saturday night in a World Cup warm-up match.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the game has attracted huge interest among the Israeli fans, mainly because of Messi’s planned participation.

But the Palestinians are not happy that the match will be held in Jerusalem.

Palestinian FA chief, Jibril Rajoub wrote on Sunday to Claudio Tapia, the head of the Argentinian FA, last week accusing Israel of using the match as a “political tool”.

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.

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The U.S. embassy was moved there last month.

“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 read.

On Sunday, Rajoub declared a campaign against Argentina and particularly Messi, noting that 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.

A small group of youths wearing Palestine football scarves demonstrated outside the representation office and attempted to set fire to an Argentinian flag.

Rajoub has long tried to get football’s world governing body, FIFA, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to impose sanctions against Israel.

This is mainly because of the Israeli government’s settlements policy in the West Bank and because it has imposed travel restrictions on Palestinian athletes citing security concerns.

Those bodies have not heeded his calls. Argentina have made four previous pre-World Cup stopovers in Israel since 1986.

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The team has been drawn in World Cup Group D and will open its campaign against Iceland in Moscow on June 16.

Most countries do not recognise either Israel’s or the Palestinians’ sovereignty in Jerusalem and have their embassies to Israel in the Tel Aviv area.

However, Guatemala and Honduras followed the U.S lead in moving their embassies last month.

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