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Barcelona blasted over fixture “boycott” after refusing to play in Jerusalem

Israeli club Beitar Jerusalem have cancelled a pre-season friendly match against Barcelona after the Catalan club refused to play the match in Jerusalem.

Beitar’s owner Mosche Hogeg confirmed on Thursday that he had made the “very difficult decision” to cancel the game after the Blaugrana’s request for a ground change and “a few other demands that I did not like”.

He added that his choice to call off the match was made “with great sadness” because he refused to concede to what he claimed was a “political” demand.

The match between the two clubs had been due to take place at Beitar’s Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on 4 August.

Beitar Jerusalem are coached by the brother of Barca boss Ronald Koeman

Beitar are coached by Erwin Koeman – the brother of Barcelona boss Ronald who worked alongside him in a senior coaching capacity at both Southampton and Everton.

The venue of Jerusalem proved to be contentious as Israel annexed east Jerusalem in the 1967 war and it believes the entire city to be its capital, although the move was never met with international recognition.

The area of East Jerusalem has been considered to be occupied by Israel by the international community, although Israel disputes this interpretation.

Beitar owner Mosche Hogeg wrote in a Facebook post: “With great sorrow I had to cancel the game against Barcelona.

“After I received the contract to sign which revealed the unequivocal demand that the game not take place in the capital, Jerusalem, and a few other demands that I did not like, I slept with a heavy heart, thought a lot and decided that first of all I am a proud Jew and Israeli.

“A game against Beitar Jerusalem should take place in Jerusalem.

“I’m not angry with Barcelona; they are not a political club and have no interest in taking part in our conflict here. Our relationship will continue to be good. This is a very difficult decision but after consulting with the mayor, Moshe Lion, I believe it is the right one.”

The Mayor of Jerusalem added his support to Beitar’s decision, stating that the Catalan club’s demands amounted to a “boycott” of the city and the state of Israel.

Moshe Lion said in a statement on Thursday: “Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Israel and the decision to boycott it is not a professional, sporting or educational decision.”

The decision follows the Palestinian FA penning a direct letter to Barcelona club president Joan Laporta earlier this month, urging them to reverse their decision to play the match in Jerusalem.

The open letter read: “(Barca) will now be remembered as the club that offended millions of Arabs, Muslims and peace supporters by playing in a political game.

“The PFA respects your rights to choose who you play, but we strongly recommend that you respect our rights and reconsider your choice of venue so that these millions of fans will remember Barça as they want to be remembered.”

That was followed by Sami Abou Shehadeh – a member of member of the Israeli parliament for the Joint List – writing a letter to the Catalan club requesting that they reconsider playing against Beitar, a club which he said “represents the most extremist, racist and fascist segments of Israeli society.”

Argentina cancelled a warm-up friendly for the 2018 World Cup against Israel following pro-Palestinian protests against the match.

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