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Rosell and Peres / PHOTO DANIEL BARON-FCB.

This Thursday, an FC Barcelona delegation led by president Sandro Rosell and vice president Javier Faus has begun an institutional visit to Israel and Palestine. Shortly after landing in Tel Aviv, after a direct flight from Milan, the Barça directors headed for the Kfar Ha Maccabiah complex for a private interview with the Israeli president, Simon Peres. The two presidents then made a joint statement in which Rosell announced that Barça is willing to take its first team to Israel for a football match “in the hope that this game can serve to build bridges of dialogue between the two communities that can help lead to reconciliation between the two”.

In his speech, Simon Peres praised FC Barcelona for this initiative. “I am the president of the State of Israel. There are many states in the world, but there is only one Barça. It is a pleasure and I am delighted to have this chance to set up this joint project. Their slogan is ‘more than a club’, and it’s true. Barça is ‘more than a club’. We will work together with you, president Rosell, and with the president of the Palestinian Authority. We will work to stage a special match which hopefully won't be a one-off occasion but part of an ongoing cooperation between our children”.

Match could be on July 31

Rosell, who gave a press conference afterwards with vice president Faus, has confirmed that the leaders of the two communities have accepted the FC Barcelona initiative with much enthusiasm. “The three parties have taken the first step for this match to become a reality and from now on we will be working together to achieve that” he said. It is still early to speak of the details of the match, but the idea is for it to be played on July 31 and for Barça to play against a team made up of both Israeli and Palestinian players. Neither has the venue been decided, but the most probable choice will be Tel Aviv, which has the biggest capacity stadiums. As well as helping to build bridges for peace and dialogue between the two communities, it will also be a charity match to raise funds for projects to help young Israelis and Palestinians. In this regard, vice president Javier Faus has confirmed that “we have no economic interests, we don’t mind whether we make or lose money. We are here to defend certain values”.

Despite the difficulties surrounding this initiative, president Rosell is convinced that “things can’t happen unless you try, and Barça won’t be pulling out. We have the support of both sides and now we have to work to sort out all the details of the match”. He also confirmed that the first team players are fully dedicated to the cause. “Most of the players were brought up at La Masia, so they are very clear about the Club’s values, they have grown up with them, and they know that this forms part of our values”. Rosell also encouraged Israeli and Palestinian players “to work together and in coordination to form a solid team, because we won’t just be here for the trip. We don’t like losing, not even in friendlies”.

After speaking to the media, the Barça representatives visited the Isaac Rabin Memorial, in the square that is named after the Israeli politician that was assassinated in 1995 after giving a speech in favour of peace. The day ended with a private supper at which Rosell and Faus were joined by Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid political party.

The trip will continue on Friday with a trip to Jerusalem, where the delegation will be visiting some of the most emblematic places in the city, before travelling to Ramallah for an interview with the president of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmud Abbas, and the Palestinian executive at Mouqata.

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