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Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires backs Argentina in World Cup

A larger than life version of Lionel Messi dominates the main street in Bronnitsy, near Argentina's World Cup team base
JUAN MABROMATA (AFP)

Israel’s embassy in Buenos Aires will back the Argentinian national football team at the World Cup, despite the recent controversy that saw the cancellation of a friendly match between the two countries earlier this month.

A video posted to YouTube by the Israeli Embassy in the Argentinian capital begins with the caption, “we were waiting for Leo, but not for such a mess” using a pun to refer to the superstar captain footballer Lionel Messi, called affectionately by his fans as “Leo.”

Images of Jerusalem, the holy city that was set to host the match on June 9th and said to have sparked the dispute, appears in the background.

In the background sombre music plays as the Israeli ambassador to Argentina Ilan Sztulman wearing the football clubs national shirt dismally flicks through a memorabilia photo-book of Messi.

“We’re a little used to waiting for the Messi-ah,” the text then reads.

A man, seemingly an embassy official, smears blue and white paint across his cheeks representing Argentina’s national colours as the background music elevates to a carnival-esque beat. “In this World Cup, from the Israeli Embassy in Argentina, have no doubt that we’ll be encouraging the blue and whites!” the next caption reads.

The three diplomats dressed in football accessories sit down to tune into the championship scheduled to kick off in Russia on Thursday, ahead of Argentina’s first game against Iceland on Saturday.

As the Latin music reaches a crescendo the video ends with the caption “bring us the trophy Lio, come on Argentina!”

The World Cup warm-up match was thrown into doubt following protests by Palestinian football authorities and an intensive campaign by the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Unspecified “threats and provocations” against Messi were said to have triggered the suspension of the match and Argentinian players were said to have expressed concern over the security situation.

The Palestinian Football Association -- which had urged Messi not to take part -- welcomed the scrapping of the game, insisting sport should not "be a tool for politicians and for political extortion".

"What happened...is a red card from everybody to the Israelis," association boss Jibril Rajoub said at a press conference, sitting next to a sign reading "From Palestine thank you Messi".

Following the cancellation, Israel’s Football Assoiation announced that it would file a complaint to FIFA. Vice President of the organization Rotem Kamer, called the move “football terror” whilst Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman called it a surrender to hate.

The Argentinian Football Association said its decision to cancel the match was a “contribution to world peace.”

Palestinians claim the Arab-majority eastern sector of Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel considers the entire city its own "indivisible" capital.

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