Palestinians say no to ‘peace game’ against Barça

Palestinians say no to ‘peace game’ against Barça

RAMALLAH/TEL AVIV - Agence France-Presse
Palestinians say no to ‘peace game’ against Barça

Barcelona president Sandro Rosell (L) and Israeli President Shimon Peres pose for photographers during a conference in Tel Aviv. AP photo

Palestinian football officials say their players will not team up with Israelis in a match against Barcelona that was designed to promote peace.

Palestinian Football Association president Jibril Rajoub met with Barcelona president Sandro Rosell on Feb. 22 and said “there are lots of obstacles.”

Rosell launched the initiative on Feb. 21, suggesting a football match between Israel and the Palestinians with players from both sides of the conflict as a step towards Middle East peace in a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

“We would like, with the Palestinian and Israeli leadership, to promote the idea of a football match for peace,” he said in a joint statement alongside Peres in Tel Aviv. “Barcelona, modestly, wishes to make themselves available in order to contribute to the efforts to strengthen the bridges of peace and dialogue between the Israeli and Palestinian communities.”

“We want to make our team, our players available to take part in a football match with the hope that this game will serve to extend the channels of dialogue within the two communities, that will help bring them closer.” Peace would be possible only if confidence, respect and understanding existed between the peoples, Rosell said.

“We believe with all our heart that a match involving Barca, with the collaboration of Israelis and Palestinians, can contribute to re-establish those links which are indispensable for people to live together peacefully.”

Peres told Rosell that “in Israel, like all over the world, Barcelona has a legion of fans,” and that football “brings down barriers, eliminates racism and teaches us to compete in friendship rather than fight in anger.”