Javier Faus speaking to the media / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

“We are the number one team in Israel and Palestine.” Javier Faus, FC Barcelona’s economic vice-president was describing why Barça have come to this part of the world. Market research, presence on social networks and television audiences are three of the sources that Faus can refer to in support of his comment. “We are very pleased with this visit because it’s a service to a very important community of Barça fans”, he told the media shortly before landing in Tel Aviv.

It was Faus who managed and coordinated this visit to the Holy Land, being called the ‘Peace Tour’. This has involved seven months of talks and four visits to both countries. “We first looked into the possibility of a friendly match against a team of Palestinians and Israelis. We spoke with the two presidents and eventually rejected the idea because of the political complexities in the region. The peace negotiations that have just started were not yet active at the time. Today, the game would be possible, but two months ago it would not have been.”

Given the impossibility of playing a fixture against Palestinians and Israelis, the club suggested two clinics with children in the region, and that was the solution they finally adopted. “These two clinics are mainly institutional in recognition of the support we have in Israel and Palestine and are particularly focused on children” said Faus. “The two stadiums will be full. All the tickets were distributed and Barça isn’t getting any money out of it. We wanted this to be a chance for children.”

Two objectives

Barça are going on this trip for institutional reasons, and there are no commercial benefits. In fact, the club is charging nothing for its presence for two days in the Holy Land, or for the tickets to watch the two clinics. “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 to 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.”

FC Barcelona have been careful about their travel plans, and have tried to strike the right balance between what they’ll do in Israel and in Palestine. As Faus explained, “we have studied every miniscule detail of the events to make sure they last the same time and that the team does the same thing in each place. The president’s speeches will be equal in length and we’ll be receiving authorities of the same rank in both Israel and Palestine. We have looked long and hard at these aspects.”

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