Argentina and Uruguay played to a 2-2 draw at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv in front of a sellout crowd of over 30,000 fans. The once in a lifetime event was enjoyed immensely by the supporters that filled the stadium thanks to Daniel Benaim of Comtec and Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams.
The game itself was played at the highest level which could have be compared to a Copa America Final with plenty of stars galore. On one side Luis Suarez, Edison Cavani and Diego Godin graced the field for Uruguay while Sergio Aguero, Pablo Dybala and Leo Messi countered on the other. Although just a friendly, the match was super important for both sides as the coaches used the contest as a dress rehearsal for 2022 World Cup qualifying using the best players at their disposal.
Despite Argentina controlling the pace of play and the loss of Uruguay central defender Sebastian Coates, Cavani his country in the lead in the 34th minute off a nice pass by Luis Suarez to go ahead 1-0. However, the Argentines kept pressing for an equalizer and found it in the 63rd minute thanks to a brilliant free kick by non other than fan favorite Leo Messi who sent a perfect ball to Aguero who nodded it home.
Uruguay didn’t let the goal sour their mood as Messi’s Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez one upped his rival with a pin point perfect free kick giving his squad a 2-1 lead setting Argentina on its hind legs once again.
As time ticked off the clock, Messi wouldn’t be denied as Martin Caceres handball gave the superstar the chance to score a penalty as he coolly slotted it behind Uruguay keeper Martin Campana to pull even at 2-2 as the game ended in a draw.
This was a historic match and Adams and Ben Naim must be credited for making it happen, bringing a game of gigantic proportions to Israel and one that was seen all around the globe by millions upon millions can’t be taken for granted, The soccer was of the highest quality, the atmosphere was one that hasn’t been seen in the Holy Land perhaps in many, many years as fans from both sides made it one big South American party.
But what has to be really applauded is that arguably the greatest player of our time and one of the greatest ever in Leo Messi came to play a competitive match in Israel. This should be noted especially after Argentina’s slated game against Israel ahead of the 2018 Russia World Cup was cancelled due to many outside factors and threats. Despite rocket fire from Gaza days earlier, Argentina and Uruguay came to Tel Aviv. In fact, on Saturday night Poland was in Jerusalem to play Israel in a UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier with star striker Robert Lewandowski as threats from Islamic Jihad out the game in the Holy City in question.
Yes, Messi was in Israel a number of years ago with Barcelona but the trip only saw the stars visiting the Western Wall, holding a couple of training sessions and that was that. No game. This is now ancient history.
But how was this feat accomplished? With the help of many influential politicians, athletes and of course Adams and Benaim as everyone calmed the teams down and promised that there would be no issues as the highest level of security and comfort being provided to the teams.
BDS activists and enemy states ruined Argentina’s potential visit last year, this year this was not going to happen under any circumstance as Israel was once again painted in the highest light on the international stage as the world watched what a sporting event can do in a pot over manner for the Holy Land.
This past summer’s Under-20 European Basketball Championships, World Class Judo Grand Prix, the Giro D’Italia and the list goes on and on. Sports can be that equalizer, that cultural event that puts Israel on the grandest stage.
Getting back to Messi for a moment, let’s look at his evening on the Bloomfield pitch. When number 10 was introduced a huge standing ovation blanketed the stadium. Fans were able to see him score and assist on an Aguero goal, complete the most skillful of dribbles with lots of style, witness trash talk between the “flea” and Cavani while also seeing Israeli referee Roie Reinstriber blow the whistle to give him free kicks. Free kicks that the crowd was able to see how Messi hits the ball with his left foot allowing them to record those moments on their mobile phones and pour them on social media as a souvenir of what had gone down on November 18, 2019 for perpetuity.
What’s certain is that 30,000 fans saw stars galore on the field and for that each and every one of them must say a big thank you to Adams and Benaim for pulling off what perhaps even Harry Houdini wouldn’t have been able to.