Barcelona soccer team on Middle East peace tour

Aug. 4, 2013 at 9:52 AM
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JERUSALEM, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- The Barcelona FC soccer team is on a two-day Middle East peace tour, playing friendly matches in the Palestinian territories and Israel.

On Sunday morning, the players met Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

"Israel and Palestinian children dream of two goals -- one is winning a goal and the goal of peace," Peres said on Israel Radio, as he addressed the players at the president's residence. "Each of you have become messengers of peace -- sports and football in particular breaks down barriers, fights racism and creates peace. In football, there are no victims, just hope for the next match."

The team also visited holy sites in Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, Israel's Channel 10 reported. In the evening, they were to hold a friendly match at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, playing with Israeli and Palestinian children, The Times of Israel reported.

The famed soccer team, including top players Lionel Messi, Xavier Hernandez and Neymar da Silva Juntos, touched down in Tel Aviv Saturday afternoon. Shortly after arriving, the players headed for Bethlehem where they met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, visited the Church of the Nativity and went on to the Dura Stadium outside Hebron where they held a friendly match with Palestinian soccer players.

Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Soccer Union, welcomed the team, describing its visit as a "historical" one and important to the Palestinian people, Israel's Channel 2 reported. "Their visit is a tour of peace, a positive step towards peace in the region. One day, all teams of all nations in the region will play together once a Palestinian state, with its own flag and national anthem is established," he said.

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