- Middle East/North Africa
Barcelona president Sandro Rosell on Thursday suggested a football match between Israel and the Palestinians with players from both sides of the conflict as a step toward Middle East peace.
"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 Israeli President Shimon Peres in Tel Aviv.
"FC 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," Rosell said in remarks relayed following the statement. "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."
"Real peace is between people and not just between governments, and as our children love Barcelona, so too do children in the Palestinian Authority," said Peres.
"Together with you, 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 ongoing cooperation between our children."
Rosell is due to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and head of Palestinian Football Association Jibril Rajoub in Ramallah on Friday to promote the initiative.
No date for such a match has yet been set, but Israeli media reported it could take place on 31 July.