The Argentine Football Association’s (AFA) decision to travel to take the national team to Jerusalem for the last World Cup warm-up game against Israel always looked like an odd decision but with the match just three days away, Jorge Sampaoli’s squad are now left without opponents after pulling out of the lucrative friendly.
The controversial decision had been met with protests at the AFA headquarters in Buenos Aires, at the World Cup training camp in Barcelona and around the world but until Wednesday afternoon, Argentina’s friendly against Israel was due to go ahead.
Jorge Sampaoli had previously stated that he was not in favour of the match but with the AFA reportedly to pocket more than one million dollars, more if Lionel Messi played some role, the decision was made.
However, with the match scheduled to take place in the neighbourhood of Malha, the site of a former Palestinian village destroyed during the war that established Israel 70 years ago, demonstrations against the match have been held over the past few weeks.
The current political situation in Israel and the Argentina squad’s already existing desire not to travel from their Barcelona camp ahead of the World Cup has seen the game cancelled and left the Albiceleste without a final warm-up game before flying to Russia.
A last-minute match in Barcelona is now trying to be arranged before a direct flight to Russia. Whether that can be done at such short notice remains to be seen but it is another example of the poor organisation within the AFA that continually holds back the national team.