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Sports

AFP
June 8, 2018

Fact-check: Did Messi refuse to play Israel over 'innocent children' deaths?

Sports

AFP
Fri, Jun 08, 2018

PARIS: Argentina star Lionel Messi is quoted as refusing to play against "people who kill innocent Palestinian children" following the cancellation of a friendly match between Argentina and Israel. There is no evidence he made this statement.

WHAT ARE WE ARE VERIFYING?

Messi is widely quoted as telling Argentina sports channel TyC Sports: "As a UNICEF ambassador, I cannot play against people who kill innocent Palestinian children. We had to cancel the game because we are humans before we are footballers."

WHAT DO WE KNOW

The quote widely shared on social media followed the decision by Argentina on Wednesday to cancel their World Cup warm-up match against Israel in Jerusalem on Saturday following pressure from the Palestinians.

However, TyC Sports reporter Martin Arevalo, who is in Barcelona where Argentina are preparing for the World Cup, said his channel had never spoken to Messi.

"What you are writing is false. Messi has not spoken to the media and not with TyC Sports on this subject. Be accurate. During his preparations for the World Cup, Messi is not talking to the press," he said in a widely shared tweet late Wednesday.

Messi, the five-time world player of the year, is not known for courting controversy or issuing political statements. 

As a UNICEF ambassador and global star anything he says is carefully vetted by his PR team and he has carefully steered clear of divisive issues.

WHAT CONCLUSION CAN BE DRAWN?

There is no evidence that Messi ever made this statement.