Photo Credit: TPS
Yossi Benayoun (L), Beitar Jerusalem soccer team member, during the game between Beitar Jerusalem and the Spanish Atletico de Madrid, at the Teddy stadium in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, May 21, 2019.

The owner of the Beitar Jerusalem Football Club, Moshe Hogeg, announced that he is canceling the friendly game against Barcelona due to the latter’s demand that the vent not take place in the capital.

Hogeg, a businessman, stated Thursday that it is “with great sorrow that I had to cancel the game against Barcelona”.

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“After I received the contract for signing and became aware of the unequivocal demand that the game not take place in the capital, Jerusalem, and a few other demands that I did not like, I thought a lot and decided that first of all I am a proud Jew and Israeli,” he explained.

“I bought Beitar Jerusalem out of love for the holy capital, I fought a bitter war against racism and I will continue to fight it, I promote coexistence and am for peace,” he added,

“A game against Beitar Jerusalem deserves to take place in Jerusalem, and if the motive for its non-existence in Jerusalem is political and I submit to it, I will not be able to be complete with myself,” he underscored.

He almost conceded to the demands, but “I have to go with my heart and head. I cannot betray Jerusalem.”

“This is a very difficult decision but after consulting with the mayor, Moshe Leon, I believe it is the right one,” he concluded.

Leon stated that he “unreservedly supports” Hogeg’s decision.

“Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel and the decision to make an exception is not professional, sportsman-like, or educational. The boycott of the capital of Israel is the boycott of the entire State of Israel,” he declared, calling on all parties in Israel “not to cooperate with the game and not to give a hand to the message of boycotting the capital of Israel for all that is implied.”

“It’s simple: a group that boycotts the capital of Israel will not reach the State of Israel and this must not be compromised,” he said.

The two teams were slated to compete in a friendly match on August 4.

Arab Member of Knesset Sami Abu Shehadeh from Joint List sent a letter to the Barcelona Club claiming that coming to the game against Beitar Jerusalem would hurt the feelings of the Arab fans, and the Catalan club also received many requests from Palestinian fans who wanted the game canceled.

Abu Shehadeh celebrated the cancellation.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.