FC Barcelona invites Palestinians to Madrid match after Gilad Shalit row
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sidetracking "El Clásico," a game normally known for featuring the world's biggest stars.
September 28th, 2012
03:46 PM ET

FC Barcelona invites Palestinians to Madrid match after Gilad Shalit row

It's not often a sporting event can stoke the tensions of one of the world's longest-running conflicts, but news that an ex-prisoner and Israeli soldier would attend a Spanish soccer match next month did just that.

Gilad Shalit, who was freed in October 2011 after more than five years as a Palestinian prisoner, is expected to attend next month's "El Clásico," a match between Spanish powerhouses FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. This game, which will be played at Barcelona's Camp Nou on October 7, is one of the world's biggest rivalries.

Despite several reports that Barcelona had extended the invitation to Shalit, the club announced in a Thursday statement that wasn't the case.

Gilad Shalit is expected to attend next month's soccer match between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

"The Club did not invite Mr. Shalit to the game, but accepted a request to watch a match during his visit to Barcelona," the statement said.

Barcelona said it also accepted a Palestinian Embassy request that three of its delegates - Palestinian Authority Ambassador Musa Amer Odeh, Palestinian Football Union President Jibril Rajoub and soccer player and activist Mahmoud Sarsak - be invited to the game.

Though the club statement said the three would attend, the Palestinian-run blog, The Electronic Intifada, cited two reports saying that Sarsak would reject the invitation.

Sarsak was freed from an Israeli prison in June following a three-month hunger strike. The player's refusal to eat prompted Amnesty International to issue a statement saying Sarsak should be released or provided with medical treatment.

There has been no statement from Sarsak regarding the Barcelona invitation, even on his Twitter feed. However, a blogger who is frequently retweeted by Sarsak has said that she spoke to Sarsak, and he confirmed the news that he would not be attending the game.

When news of Shalit's attendance first broke, there was backlash in Gaza. FC Barcelona is sponsored by The Qatar Foundation and Turkish Airlines and is enormously popular in the Palestinian territories, but Hamas, which governs Gaza, said it would not permit TV stations to air Barcelona games or papers to report team news.

Al Arabiya further reported that Hama radio station in Gaza had stopped broadcasting team updates and that a Spain-based anti-Israeli group, BDS Catalunya, had organized a petition calling for Barcelona to revoke the invitation. It garnered 600 to 650 signatures, depending on the news report.

“We are also surprised to see your club express so much friendship and sympathy towards the only Israeli soldier to be imprisoned in recent years as a result of this conflict while, at the same time, maintaining absolute silence about the 4,660 Palestinian prisoners now confined in Israeli prisons," the petition said, according to the International Business Times.

FC Barcelona moved quickly to assert that it was not taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The club's Thursday statement carried the headline, "FC Barcelona, for peace and harmony in the Middle East," and club vice president Carles Vilarrubí told an Israeli website, “Barcelona is a place of unity, not divisions. This invitation [to Shalit] does not indicate in any way that Barca takes a position in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The club also noted in its Thursday statement that it had hosted Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during a visit to Barcelona last summer. It also said that 16 Palestinian and 15 Israeli children had trained together last year at La Masia, which houses Barcelona's revered youth system, as part of the team's efforts to contribute to the peace process.

"The goal of the exercise was to cultivate an athletic relationship between the two groups," the statement said.

Shalit is a well-known sports fan. Since emerging from captivity - during which he reportedly beat his minders routinely at PlayStation soccer - he has attended a Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball game and the NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, Florida.

The Miami Herald reported in June that Shalit attended the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder as a correspondent for the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahranot.

Post by:
Filed under: Human rights • Israel • Palestinians • Soccer • Sports • World
soundoff (180 Responses)
  1. Really

    Many like to severely criticize those peoples who instinctively defend their land from invaders, especially as invaders abscond with oil and diamonds, etc.
    Would not our men and boys do the same if the US were occupied? Sure, many "citizens" would roll-over for any regime change as did the majority of French citizens of occupied France. But there would be enough men like my grandpa and enough boys like his 12 yr. old grandson to put-on one hell of a show. (resistance)

    September 28, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • talkic.com

      Props to the Israelis for defending whats their's. The Palestinians can keep passing the same crap from generation to generation...but it won't change the fact that they never showed up until the Jewish folk made something of the land.

      September 28, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anati

      ...And of course, let us not mention that the Gaza strip is NOT under occupation, let's not mention that Israel withdrawn all it's forces several years ago and evacuated ALL it's settlements and villages from that area. That was during PM Sharon's government.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:19 am | Report abuse |
    • pinkpanther

      Europe's worst Islamic-linked terror attack took place in Spain on March 11, 2004, when bombs went off in railway carriages during the morning rush hour near Madrid's Atocha station.

      The attack killed 191 people injured more than 1,800. Twenty-one people have been convicted of involvement in that attack.

      spain is afraid of the muslims

      September 29, 2012 at 4:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. EnglishmeninNEWYORKbySTING

    NEWEST KING ROMNEY AD..... a parody.... shows a phony Tony Blair and Thatcher surrounded by a RAINBOW of British faces in every American city... waving flags that look like the American general Petreaus convoluted failing LEGACY...
    Support @immigration Romney style flags... trust FOX and its previous associates hiding out in other media outlets.

    September 28, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • pinkpanther

      im not an obama fan but i do like his use of drones . bravo to obama for destroying the ME with just a speech good for him.

      September 29, 2012 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    OMG!
    Just put the political differences aside for one freaking day and watch a soccer game in peace!
    WHY does everything have to be so dang complicated?
    Quit being a bunch of whiny wussies, stop throwing tantrums, and let everyone watch the game without making it an international incident, for heaven's sake!

    September 28, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Light1Up

    Keep doing what you're doing phil! I might not agree with 100% of your statements but thats how life works.

    September 28, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  5. TvNyC

    I agree with banasy. Hope all is well my lady @banasy

    September 28, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ome Barça

    Ilove barca, but still understand why they have to bring all this politacal junk in this. I beleive soccer is a good sport WITHOUT politics.

    September 28, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bribarian

    he should just watch it from home, nobody wants swindlers in their country

    September 29, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Anati

      Swindler? who are you talking about??????????????

      September 29, 2012 at 3:22 am | Report abuse |
  8. togirl

    does Barcelona stop playing if jews watch their games?? does Barcelona's owners refuses their money if they want to buy a ticket?? or do they have to drop their pants to prove their aren't??

    September 29, 2012 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
  9. ef

    dude it's just a boycott, not like they're invading the camp nou any sooner. just like shalit is free to attend, they're free to voice their discontent from their own country.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  10. pardon me

    Pardon me, kids. I thought this was an adult news blog. Sorry for stepping in your sandbox.

    September 29, 2012 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. dinkpanther 4:34AM

    The America's worst christian-linked terror attack happened in N. America when generous US "christians" donated blankets laced with the deadly pox virus to native Indians who had been herded to places christians didn't want to live. Thousands and thousands of peoples were slain.
    Christians weren't able to enslave native Americans, and so began purchasing slaves from Arab-African slave masters. Christians set these slaves free eventually, and herded them into slummy ghettos just as they had herded Indians onto reservations. Even to this very day, these peoples still dwell in ghettos with 43% living off of christian warm blankets (wellfare) Most others either join the street gang or join the army.
    "CHRISTIANS" who point the finger at Islam are hypocrites of the highest order.

    September 29, 2012 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      True dinkpanther. Sad day for americans. I always wonder why that sort of history is not taught in schools, I think it would humble the masses and not make us feel like we are so wonderful, but human and vindictive at times. I think of it as using chemical warfare against the indians. Shameful humans.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. You "Christians"

    You "Christians" didn't set the black man free! You herded him into ghetto slums just as surely as you herded American Indians onto reservations.
    Do not deny this fact of written and verifiable history.

    September 29, 2012 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  13. You "Christians"

    In fact, throughout the so-called "christian era" dating from the time of Christ, "christians" have been doing these same exact things. From the "Holy" Roman Empire led by "christians" who invaded and occupied foreign nations and enslaved foreign peoples...all the way down to today where we observe "christians" repeating themselves and their actions. Actions all done in the name of God Almighty. But "they" are the terrorists. Yeah. Righghghght.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  14. You "Christians"

    You "christians" even try to extort people into following you. You threaten them with burning in hell forever if they don't see things your way. EXTORTIONISTS! Not true Christians. NOT followers of Christ and his teachings.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Walk613

      Im a Christian and I dont give 2 sh!ts what religion others follow, and I don't care if you are an atheist either it's your choice. And I'm sure the majority of western people think the same way. Anyways the story is about an ex-prisoner going to a soccer game in another country, what should it matter he should be able to go where ever he wants.

      Palestine is not ready to have its own state when they act like children. If Israel backed out of that land they would be attacked by the peaceful palestinians, so I dont blame them for hanging onto it until Palestine finally gets their sh!t together. I dont agree with the building of new settlements though, neither side is in the right in this conflict and only through real dialogue and comprimise will there ever be a solution that both parties agree on.

      Yet again this article is about a soccer match and both parties should go and sit beside eachother and show that both sides can co-exist and that we as humans can set aside differences to enjoy watching one of the greatest sports of all time soccer.

      September 29, 2012 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
    • David Negev

      After 150 years of experiencing PalestMuslim terror combined with lies, propagand, hate and deceit, one learned that even "peace talks" with these people ends as a death trap. Please note the 2000 civilians Israeli-Jews blown up to their death by PalestMuslim terrorists (mostly by suicide bombers) during the"Oslo peace" innitiative. It apears clearly that the PalestMuslim tactics is murdering their opponent from a standpoint of self-made poor victims in order to raise sympathy from the non involved!

      September 29, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      @ David Negev,
      According to the "United Nations Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs"
      The trends of Palestinians being killed is rising, while Israeli deaths are declining since sept 2000.
      Looking at 2 different websites I see a HUGE gap in Palestinians killed verses Israelis killed.
      For example; in 2007 for every one Israeli death there were 25 Palestinian deaths
      The chart on both websites (the other being "ifamericansknew.org") depicts graphically how wide that gap really is.
      2002 7,000 Palestinians verses 1,000 Israelis and that from sept 2000 till present

      Please get your facts straight before posting, there are enough fallicies given out that Israel's hands are clean.

      September 29, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • talkic.com

      Mary...what percent of the Palestinians killed were terrorists (brought to justice) vs. Civilians? What percent of Israelis killed were terrorists vs Civilians? A little context to your figures is always nice.

      September 29, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Obama Mama

    Soccer is fun. lol.

    September 29, 2012 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Soccor IS fun, OM!
      My son was quite good at it; I always enjoyed his games.
      #14, always in my heart!
      That being said, this young man should be able to go and enjoy this match, also, without causing such an uproar...

      September 29, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8