Spanish Soccer Team FC Barcelona visited Israel to promote athletics as a bridge to co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis.
The celebrated Spanish soccer team FC Barcelona, a favorite among Israeli and Palestinian teenagers, is visiting Israel to promote sports as a bridge to peace and co-existence in the Middle East. Greeted by hundreds of fans wearing Barcelona shirts, the Spanish soccer club is set to play with both Israeli and Palestinian children, in addition to visiting Hebron, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv. Israeli President Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with members of the BC Barcelona team as well.
“I am excited to be welcoming one of the best teams in the world,” said President Peres. “I am convinced that sport is a way to lift barriers. For many kids in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority, it’s a dream come true to meet stars like Messi, Iniesta and Neymar, and even play with them,” he said, adding that “the game will reflect principles of peace, moderation and curiosity. We’ll do the utmost to make the visit a success, and children in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority will have an exciting experience and good, positive memories that they’ll retain throughout their lives.”
“We are the number one team in Israel and Palestine,” said Barcelona’s Economic Vice President Javier Faus. “We are very satisfied with this visit because it’s about community service. It’s very important for Barca’s fans.” The FC Barcelona team is going to play at two clinics focused on children. “The two stadiums will be full. All the tickets were distributed and Barca isn’t getting any money out of it. We wanted this to be a chance for children,” reiterated Faus. Star midfielder Andres Iniesta added, “The goals are important but it’s also crucial to educate children and try to bring them together.”
According to Faus, ““There are two reasons for the trip. The first is to do our little bit for peace, showing how sport and children can be used as bridges between the two communities. We’re not here on business, we’re not making anything out of this trip, but it will help to promote the club’s name, both among Arabs, an increasingly more important market for us, and among the Jewish community. It’s a good solution for everyone.”
The FC Barcelona website asserted that they “want to thank Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his personal commitment to this project, as well as President Shimon Peres.” The Peres Center for Peace, as well as the Israeli Football Association, is set to be involved in FC Barcelona events on this tour. The Government of Israel also provided assistance to the Spanish athletes. FC Barcelona prides itself on promoting dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis and has organized sporting events between the two nations in the past. FC Barcelona announced that it looks forward to continuing its long commitment to promoting both peace and democracy.
To view a video of their arrival, see below!