The owner of Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem announced Thursday the cancellation of a friendly with Barcelona, a fixture purportedly scheduled for August 4.
“I am forced to cancel the match against Barcelona," due to Barcelona’s “politically motivated" refusal to play in Jerusalem, Beitar owner Moshe Hogeg said in a post on Facebook.
“I bought Beitar out of love for the holy city and if I back down from playing in Jerusalem because of political motives, I would not be acting in line with my principles," Hogeg added.
He said Barcelona would only agree to play the game in the coastal city of Tel Aviv.
Sources at Barcelona however told AFP that the Spanish club consider various options for pre-season friendlies, but that a proposed meeting with Beitar Jerusalem was never confirmed.
The Palestinian Football Federation had condemned holding the fixture in Jerusalem, according to Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Israel claims the whole of Jerusalem as its undivided capital.
East Jerusalem was occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day war and was later annexed by the Jewish state, in a move never internationally recognised. It is claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of their own future state.
Beitar Jerusalem had proposed that the fixture take place at the Teddy Stadium, in the western part of the city.
Beitar Jerusalem play in Israel’s top division and some supporters have regularly been heard booing Arab players on opposing teams, while also insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
The club says it has worked to clean up its image in recent years, and in 2017 received an award from President Reuven Rivlin for battling against racism.