FACT CHECK: Did Lionel Messi Say He Would Not Play A Soccer Match Against Israel?
An image shared on Facebook claims Argentinian soccer player Lionel Messi refused to play a match against Israel because of the country’s actions against Palestinian territories.
There is no evidence Messi said the quote, which has been circulating online since at least 2018. The quote appears to have been fabricated.
Conflict between Palestinian militant group Hamas and Israel broke out May 10 and lasted until a ceasefire was enacted May 21, according to Reuters. Over 200 Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes while 13 Israelis were killed by rockets fired by Hamas, the outlet reported.
A post on Facebook includes a photo of Messi along with a quote attributed to him saying he would refuse to play a match against Israel due to the country’s role in the conflict. (RELATED: Does This Image Show An Israeli Soldier Kneeling On A Palestinian Child’s Neck?)
“As a UNICEF ambassador, I cannot play against people who kill innocent Palestinian children,” Messi allegedly said. “We had to cancel the game because we are humans before footballers.”
There is, however, no evidence that Messi said the quote attributed to him. The statement does not appear on his verified social media accounts. A search for news reports quoting Messi as making the comment only turned up outlets debunking the attribution.
The claim that Messi made the remark has been circulating online since at least June 2018, when Argentina canceled a World Cup warm up match against Israel after Messi and other team members had threats made against them and Palestinian activists staged protests according to The New York Times.
Argentinian journalist Martin Arevalo tweeted in response to the claim in June 2018 that Messi never said the statement.
— Martin Arevalo (@arevalo_martin) June 6, 2018
“What you write is false,” a translation of the tweet reads. “Messi did not speak with any media nor with @TyCSports about this. Report accurately. Messi did not talk to the press on this tour.”