Barcelona visit Israel as 'messengers of peace' | inside World Soccer

Barcelona players arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday for a two-day "Peace Tour" in order to bring a message of peace for Israel and the Palestinians.

Barcelona player Lionel Messi puts a paper with wishes in a crack of the Western Wall
Barcelona player Lionel Messi puts a paper with wishes in a crack of the Western Wall

Photo: Getty Images

After landing at Ben Gurion Airport and visiting the Palestinian Authority on Saturday, the Barcelona squad began the second day of their trip to Israel with a visit to the famous Western Wall in Jerusalem on Sunday morning.

Although it was a working day in Israel, the Azulgrana were greeted by a crowd of supporters, who moved towards the players in order to see their idols up close.

A special zone of the wall was set aside for the Barcelona touring party, where there was short photo session and a guide explained the significance of the place.

Keeping with Jewish tradition, the players covered their heads with a "kipa" and placed their personal wishes inside the cracks of the wall.

From the Western Wall, the touring party moved on to the residence of the President of Israel, where they met President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The meeting was all about promoting peace in the Middle East, and ended with the players posing for a picture with the country's leaders.

Lionel Messi speaks with two fans at the end of a training clinic with Arab and Jewish children
Lionel Messi speaks with two fans at the end of a training clinic with Arab and Jewish children

Photo: Reuters

The visit concluded with an evening training clinic with Israeli and Palestinian children at the 14,400-capacity Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv.

Dozens of young Israelis, including Israeli Jews and Arabs from the Peres Center for Peace, took part in the training session alongside Barcelona stars, including Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta, and new signing Neymar.

During this clinic, Messi was accompanied by Mohammad Roman, a 17-year-old from Palestine, and Asael Shabo, a 19-year-old from Israel.

The two youngsters donned shirts with the word "peace" written on them, Mohammad's was in Catalan, English, Arabic and Asael's was in Catalan, English and Hebrew.

This is one of the most striking images from this session because is conveys what Barça wanted to get across on the "Peace Tour" - the power of football to build bridges to peace.

"It's a great honour to host Barcelona in a holy city like Jerusalem," Peres said in his speech.

"You have achieved a very high level of football. But more than that, you have sent a message of solidarity, friendship, and of caring for the weak.

"You are messengers of peace. Millions of people love you and you offer your love to them. Thank you very much."

The event wrapped up a busy two-day trip for the Spanish champions, and on Sunday night, the team flew straight to the Far East to begin their Asian tour, which includes games in Thailand and Malaysia.


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