(June 4, 2018 / JNS) Palestinian fans of Argentinian soccer megastar Lionel Messi have been encouraged to burn replicas of his team jersey and all pictures of him if he goes through with playing in a friendly match against Israel in Jerusalem next weekend.
The Argentinian two-time world-champion team will play the Israeli national team at Jerusalem’s Teddy Kollek Stadium on Saturday night in a World Cup warmup match. Tickets to the event were sold out online within 20 minutes.
The match will feature the world-famous Messi, though Palestinians slammed the event as a “political tool” for Israel.
Palestinian Football Association head Jibril Rajoub penned a missive to Argentinian Football Association Claudio Tapia last week, complaining that “the match now is being played in order to celebrate the ‘70th anniversary of the State of Israel.’ ”
The game was originally scheduled to occur in Haifa, but received funding from Israeli authorities to move it to Jerusalem.
Rajoub expressed outrage that Messi would not cave in to pressure to forego the game against the Israeli team, and told reporters that he would galvanize millions of Arab and Islamic fans around the world to boycott him. “He is 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,” he told reporters.
Rajoub has attempted to get international soccer and sports organizations to impose sanctions against Israel, but has not been successful.