Fact Check

Statement on Israel-Palestine conflict falsely attributed to Messi

Claim: A user on Facebook claims that Lionel Messi has said that, as a UNICEF ambassador, he would not play against Israel because of the country’s existing tensions with Palestine.

The claim that Lionel Messi has said that he would not play against Israel as a UNICEF ambassador because of the country’s existing tensions with Palestine is false. There is no concrete evidence linking the statement to Lionel Messi. This claim is FALSE. 

Full Text

Lionel Andrés Messi, simply referred to as Leo Messi or Lionel Messi, is a soccer player who captains the Argentinian national soccer team and plays for Paris Saint Germain (PSG). The  player is regarded by some as the greatest soccer talent of all time, possibly because  he has been named world player of the year six times (2009–12, 2015, and 2019) by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). In 2010, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) appointed Messi as a Goodwill Ambassador.  

The Israeli–Palestinian conflict has been one of the world’s oldest and ongoing conflicts. Since the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by Israel almost 54 years ago, all sorts of conflicts have been unfolding between Israel and Palestine. The most recent one took place  in May 2021 when over 200 deaths were recorded mostly from the Palestinian side. 

It is based on this pre-existing context that a user on Facebook, Moa Locks, claims that Lionel Messi has said that as a UNICEF ambassador he would not play against Israel.   

The Claim

“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 footballers.” “Love you Messi Respect,” he posted. 

The alleged quote was referenced to TyC Sport and shared alongside a picture of the player with the notice: “Cancels his friendly against Israel in support for Israel.”

The post was reshared multiple times on Facebook and has attracted diverse reactions, with some users doubting the efficacy of the claim. 

Verification 

When DUBAWA conducted a Google search of the acclaimed statement, the results referenced the statement back to other Facebook posts that neither say where nor when Messi made the statement. Advanced searches further conducted on Lionel Messi’s social media handles and the TYC sport website yielded no results regarding the statement.  

Apparently, this alleged statement linked to Lionel Messi has been in circulation  since 2018, soon after the Argentinian football team called off a friendly match with Israel due to threats made against its team members. 

In addition, when the claim surfaced on Twitter, Martin Arevalo, an Argentinian sports journalist with TyC Sports (as of 2018), discredited the claim in a quote tweet. He outrightly declared that the claim is false. Adding that Messi never made such a statement on TYC sport or elsewhere.  

“What you write is false. Messi did not speak with any means and neither in @TyCSports about this. Report accurately. Messi on this tour I do not speak to the press.” Arevalo tweeted. 

A screenshot of Martin Arevalo’s post on Twitter discrediting the claim back in 2018

A few media outlets have also debunked the claim in 2018, discrediting it as a fabricated falsehood. 

Conclusion 

Shreds of evidence gathered show the alleged statement was not made by Lionel Messi. In fact, all the reports around the topic discredited the narrative. This claim is false.

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