Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has taken to Twitter to gloat about Lionel Messi’s penalty miss at the FIFA World Cup. The Barcelona and Argentina star missed the spot kick during his country’s match against Iceland on Saturday, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
“One should first consider how much Messi needed the training match against Israel,” tweeted the far-right minister, “and then wish for him to win against Iceland (in the upcoming games), a small country with 360,000 people, but with a gigantic team.”
This was a reference to the cancellation of a pre-tournament friendly between Argentina and Israel; the South American side cancelled the game, which was scheduled for 9 June. Although originally set to be played in Haifa, the venue was switched to occupied Jerusalem by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told Argentinian President Mauricio Macri that the city is Israel’s “eternal capital”. Palestinians described this as a blatant attempt to gain recognition for Israel’s illegal annexation of the Holy City.
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The eventual cancellation of the match followed official and popular Palestinian pressure, as well as calls by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement protesting against the decision to hold the match in Jerusalem. However, Messi and his teammate Javier Mascherano were reported to be behind the decision of the Argentina national team to cancel the match due to the Israeli occupation’s ongoing attacks against the Palestinian people.