The Barça players and staff with Mahmoud Abbas / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB

No sooner had they crossed into Israel than the first Barça banners became visible in the streets of Bethlehem. There was huge expectation surrounding the visit by the FCB touring party.

As soon as they got off the coach, the players were surrounded by a swathe of adoring fans, including several children wearing Barça shirts. They headed for the Basilica of the Nativity, where it is believed that Jesus of Nazareth was born, and paid a visit to the temple. After greeting the senior religious figures in the town, they posed for a group photo outside the basilica.

Reception with Mahmoud Abbas

They then made their way to the headquarters of the Palestinian presidency for a private visit where they were received by president Mahmoud Abbas. Treated as if he were a head of state, Sandro Rosell was accompanied by the other members of the board, plus the players, and exchanged a few words and gifts with the Palestinian leader. Then Jibril Rjoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Association, spoke to the media and explained what a historic moment this is for his people. “We are hugely respectful of this visit being paid by Barça” he said. “It is big step towards our desire for peace”. He spoke about his high hopes for a future independent state of Palestine, and announced that if that day should ever come, then FC Barcelona would be the first team they’d be inviting to play.

President Sandro Rosell thanked him for the affection shown by the Palestinian people, saying “Barça will do everything we can to do our little bit to help resolve this conflict and achieve peace”. And after seeing so many children wearing Barça shirts, he also had some special words for younger Palestinians.

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