Leo Messi, with youngsters from Israel and Palestine / PHOTO: MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB

[[DES_1]] During this evening’s clinic in Tel Aviv, Leo Messi was accompanied by Mohamad, a 17-year-old from Palestine, and Assael, a 19-year-old from Israel. The two youngsters donned shirts with the word ‘peace’ written on them, Mohamad’s was in Catalan, English, Arabic and Assael’s was in Catalan, English and Hebrew. This is one of the most striking images from this evening’s session in Bloomfield Stadium because is conveys what Barça wanted to get across on the Peace Tour: the power of football to build bridges to peace.

Child protagonists

The Bloomfield Stadium is located in Yafo, one of the most underprivileged districts in the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv. It was here that the Barça players met with young Israelis and Palestinians, with the players marching onto the pitch with one child on either side, one of each nationality.

The first part of the event involved 40 boys and girls. 20 selected by the Israeli Ministry of Education and 20 by the Shimon Peres Centre for Peace, and who come from two football teams, the Arabic Bnei Sajnin and the Jewish Beitar Jerusalem. Some of the children are disabled, as is the case with Assael.

Packed stadium and spectacular mosaic

“There was massive expectation. They were even phoning me at 1 in the morning for tickets!” explained Ido Sharir, the director general of the Shimon Peres Centre for Peace. A total of 1,500 Israeli and 500 Palestinian children were invited. No fewer than 500 coaches had driven from different parts of Israel to Tel Aviv to attend an event they’ll surely never forget. At the start of the session, a spectacular mosaic was formed by the 15,000 coloured cards placed around the stadium.

This final event in the Holy Land was presided by Sandro Rosell and Shimon Peres, and was the perfect example of FC Barcelona’s intentions for this Peace Tour. Football is indeed a bridge to peace.

This experience was very rewarding for all of us

After the clinic, Xavi Hernández expressed his satisfaction with the training sessions on Saturday and Sunday: “It has been a very positive experience. The fact that we got to be with Palestinian and Israeli children was very rewarding for all of us. The people enjoyed our visit and we did our small part for peace and coexistence between two communities. 

More intense training

Unlike in Dura, the final part of the session was longer and more intense. Along with the typical warm-up drills, the players also did some skills work. Tata Martino, who was running this part of the session, worked with the centre backs and midfielders on getting the ball out from the back and how the midfielders need to track back when the other team gets the ball. Cristian Tello, meanwhile, did recovery work separately from the main group.