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.

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Filed under: Human rights • Israel • Palestinians • Soccer • Sports • World
soundoff (180 Responses)
  1. are the palestinians pathetic or what! lol

    what a bunch of monkeys...

    September 29, 2012 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  2. DJones

    If you wanted proof that the Palestinian leadership is run by completely out of control racist you now have it. To think that a young man who was kidnapped and abused by terrorist for years who wants to go see a soccer match is somehow intolerable to them and they have to make an international scene out of it. Sick....

    September 29, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. soccer mom

    I'm only a soccer mom and I could tell from the first sentence in this news story that it wasn't just about soccer.
    You pretend soccer moms need to get real.

    September 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      If you're a soccer mom, I'm the Easter Bunny.
      We have the right to comment, no matter how much you despise us.

      September 29, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Philip

    Back in the 70s, soccer was the number one sport in Colorado Springs. Virtually every boy had a soccer ball.. Girls too. Sort of like how popular video games are now, was soccer in my town.
    I coached the Broadmoor Bombers, a team of mostly rich kids and one particularly talented kid whose dad worked for Muhammed Ali as a sparring partner. ("Preacher Lewis") I was also a soccer official for the City of Colorado Springs. I was 15 at the time, and it is a most unusual story of how I got that job and came to be head coach of the Broadmoor Bombers. (cont)

    September 29, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Philip

    Any who visit CNN often are more than familiar with my childhood filled with abuse of all sorts. I lived inside of my "happy place" rather than just going there to hide while being abused as a child, as is the norm. I had the funnest childhood you could imagine...full of adventure and happy childhood memories.
    At the age of 15, I came out of my closet. My sister being rayped in HS snapped me right out of it. I went down to the Colorado Springs Police Dept. to file charges against my extended family abusers. The police wouldn't allow me to file a complaint, and so I walked over to the dept. of Social Services. (cont)

    September 29, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Philip

    At Social Services, I met my councelor, my savior, and my mother I never had, Dottie Piccinne...as fiesty an Italian woman there never was. After listening to my story, she took me back down to CSPD and a formal complaint was filed against certain members of my abusive extended family. Two police officers escorted myself and Dottie back to my parents house. My parents were told in no uncertain terms that the abuse of Philip Eugene Douglas was now officially over. No arrests were made.
    It was Dottie who got me the job with the city as a ref and park official, and it was her who encouraged me to volunteer to coach. No. My assistant coach was not a gay man lusting for boy flesh, and if he were, well, I'm no Joe Paterno. (shrug)

    September 29, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. How bogus is that?

    Since WHEN do rich parents allow their kids to be coached in soccer by a self proffessed crackhead? Only in Colorado Springs i guess!

    September 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Philip

    Not "bogus" at all @banasy. And I didn't smoke crack until I was 31. It was me self-medicating my manic depression, and it was for one long year hiding from the law in Las Vegas. (I beat the sh/t out of a police officer who attacked me for no reason. Self defense. Deputy Bosworth's dad was the district judge and was railroading my ass to prison, so I fled)
    Interestingly, enablers of abusers can hardly help but speak-out against any who threaten to expose the "Mrs. Sandusky" aspect of child abuse. (the enabling mother) Though they usually change their s/n when doing so, and never speak-out on their own. They wait and lurk for any who post anti-enabler comments, and then pounce.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @Philip, that is NOT banasy, she is not a screen name changer. Why don't you consider starting your own blog or write a book on your horrific childhood? You may be able to help others with similar struggles.

      September 29, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Philip

    For a fact I coached the Broadmoor Bomber boys soccer team, 1974 season.
    "Preacher" Lewis donated our Puma brand soccer cleats, and his 9 yr. old boy could score an unassisted goal from a corner kick. (I myself taught him how to "bend it")
    That you impute false motive at everything I say while knowing of my severe child abuse is very telling. The hallmark of enabling women.

    September 29, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. David Posev

    After 250 years of "christians" generously donating warm blankets infested with the deadly pox virus to native Americans whom "christians" had herded onto reservations...proud people refusing to be enslaved by "christians"...
    After 150 years of "christians" purchasing slaves from Arab-African slavemasters, and only setting them "free" to herd them into ghettos where they are easy picking for welfare moms, gangstas, and the US Army front lines...
    You "christians" who dis Muslims are hypocrites of the highest order.
    "God hates hypocricy."-your bible.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. David Prosev

    After 10 years of being 9/11 victims, you "christians" not only seek revenge, you seek Bush's "prevenge"...executing to death suspected criminals before they have had their day in court.
    "Vengeance is MINE sayeth the Lord."-your bible.
    You "christians" act as if you are God and have a teraphim buddy Jesus hidden in your pocket. (to keep even jews from laughing at you and your silly [to them] buddy Jesus.
    "Many will say to me on that day Lord! Lord!...did we not execute many muslims in your name? Did we not donate cash to wealthy jews? And yet I [Jesus] will say to them 'Go away from me you workers of lawlessness. You never knew me at all."-your bible, philiphrased.

    September 29, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. banasy©

    The last post I wrote was the Easter Bunny one.
    I have no problems calling you out on something, Philip, and I blog exclusively under banasy.
    That you attribute anyone who EVER says something to you to me is doing me, and the person who actually POSTS it, a disservice, and believe it or not, I just don't care enough about you or stories about yourself to post any opinion at all, one way or another...it means zip squat to me and my life.
    Get over yourself: you aren't important enough to waste anymore keystrokes on...so I won't except to say grow the heck up.

    September 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mary

    Cnn your only proving that you HIDE was Israel has done to Palestinians

    September 29, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay jay

      Ok let's see if CNN posts this. I had two patients come into the optical place I work at. The first guy said that when obamacare got implemented his monthly premiums went from $600 a month to over $1100 a month! (seriously who has that kind of money?) the second gal that came in and ordered a pair of glasses. Because of obamacare her copay went from $25 to to $95 and she had no clue of the changes. Sure this program is good for people who have no job, no hope, and no future, but it's killing the folks that have a job and actually contribute to our country. Thanks obomba. You are such a great guy that is destroying the middle class...

      September 29, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay jay

      CNN hurry and delete the post above. You surely don't want the folks to know what obamacare has done...

      September 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Wow, Jay jay.
      Mine wasn't affected at all.
      What are the names of their insurance companies?
      I'd like to look into that, as those who HAVE insurance already should not be affected.
      Sounds like somebody is scamming someone.

      September 29, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay jay

      I know that other people out there have their own stories as to how obamacare has screwed them over. LET'S HERE THEM

      September 29, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay jay

      United health care company which is the same as optum health and spectera

      September 29, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I'm going to ask a friend who's in the insurance industry.
      Somthing soesn't sound right there.

      September 29, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay jay

      banz mine has not been affected either thank god. I have Healthnet. At a pricetag of over a trillion bucks who do you think is going to bare the brunt of the cost? Yup, the middle class

      September 29, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mary

    Cnn is PRO Israel NOT a unbias News organization
    Pass it on !

    September 29, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jy jy

      see!!! They deleted it banz! They don't want people to know the truth behind obamacare. Hell I had to change my name just to get this one to go thru.

      September 29, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jy jy

      peope let's hear your stories as to how obamacare has screwed you over. Let's inundate CNN so they get a flippin clue!

      September 29, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jy jy

      Ill say it again. This man that came into the optical shop said when obamacare took effect his premium went from $600 a month to over $1100 a month. Who has that kind of money Mr. Obama?

      September 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Dang, you're right, Jay jay!
      And that was *quick*, too!
      I remember the names of the companies, though, and I *will* ask my friend; if companies are scamming people or Obamacare is, I want to know, biddygirl's post notwithanding.

      September 29, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jy jy

      banz about the man that came in. I do not know who his insurance was thru. I didn't think to ask as I was so appalled by his revelation...

      September 29, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jy jy

      oh and let's not forget the little provision that was in obamacare that says startin next year that when you sell your house you will have to now pay 3.8% of the homes value to go towards obamacare. I can't make this crap up folks....

      September 29, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mrs. Sippy

      Just google "obamacare 3.8%"...

      September 29, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay jay

      obama quote. "I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not ANY form of your taxes.". Well if I sell my home next year for $200000 I will now have to into obamacare to the tune of $7600! And that's not a tax huh Mr. Obomba? Thanks for sticking it to the middle class you jerk...

      September 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liberty Spinner

      Mary you are another REPUKE nut job fake Jesusian. You don't know what unbiased is because Voldemort is your lover and you think he's holy.

      September 29, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mary

    Cnn Israels LAP DOG

    September 29, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
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