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. dazzle ©

    @jayjay, Would you please cite the source on the sale of home and the percentile going to Obamacare. I sold a place in Phoenix last year and I have this huge place in Pima that I want to sell. It's no where near the value of what was paid for it but I want every penny I can get for it. This is an appalling development.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay jay

      look it up. Whatever your search engine is.

      September 30, 2012 at 5:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    @dazzle:
    A winnowing shovel is an agricultural tool, also referenced in the NT metaphorically: to separate wheat, "good" from the chaff, "bad".
    This is my interpretation only.
    And that is what it is, to ME.

    Btw, the book is fabulous; I reccomend it highly!
    I'm going to get back to it; so good night, dearest dazzle.

    September 29, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • dazzle ©

      @banasy, I think it was going to turn that into something biblical. I will look out for that book. Goodnight my friend. The child appreciates all of your love and support as do I.

      September 29, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. chrissy

    Well i can see i missed a whole helluva alotta nothin again. Dang. All this over a soccer match? Not what i was expectin to see, but then again certain ppl gotta have that pulpit, along with the milk crate to stand on. And ok @ Mary, read Mathew 7:2l-23!

    September 29, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. chrissy

    And when youre done please enlighten me on your interpretation and how it pertains to you, because it most definitely does!

    September 29, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. chrissy

    This has me so upset. I have to stock up on depends diapers. What a mess..

    September 30, 2012 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  6. SAS

    What does FC Barcelona have in common with an Israel terrorist ?

    September 30, 2012 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. David Negev

    Gilad Shalit was exchaned against 1027 PalestMuslim terrorists who were put in Israeli Jail after found guilty of specifically targetting and murdering Israeli civilians, children, women and men. After 150 years of experiencing PalestMuslim terror combined with lies, propaganda, 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 30, 2012 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
  8. tony

    Gilad wentt to kill innocent palestinians he got arrested keep him in prison.israelies terroer kill 1000s of innocent over the years.

    September 30, 2012 at 5:08 am | Report abuse |
  9. D.Negev Jew Brokers and Auctioneers

    How much will you give me for that jew over there? Do I hear a thousand "PalestMuslim" murderers?
    One thousand, one thousand someone give me one...ep! Hey yadda yadda yadda sumbuddy give me one thousand.
    SOLD! To the church lady in the green dress.
    Next item up for bids:Authentic life vests from famous ships that arrived to America shortly before wWII. (full of jews seeking asylum from Nazi Germany. The christians would NOT allow jews safe harbor and sent them back to hell)
    These items are rare, so let's start the bidding at 10,000 convicted christian boy stalking raypists.

    September 30, 2012 at 5:39 am | Report abuse |
  10. D.Negev Jew Brokers and Auctioneers

    Let's keep it down back there in the peanut gallery. If people find out that Israel is the war monger, my stock in jews will go down. And I've got a lot invested in jews, as have all US taxpayers. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars.
    I imagine a few of you unemployed or homeless christians are having a hard time explaining to your kids that you would still have a house if your house payment wasn't churched-out to jews.

    September 30, 2012 at 5:47 am | Report abuse |
  11. MSA

    It is great to see these two football giants who have an impressive international youth supporters and followers to push for peace in their own way. Any such caring visions helps towards fostering relationships and realisation, particularly in the young and unbiased minds, that it is possible to PLAY together, LEAVE together which will help create a trouble free Midle East. I hope both Shalit and Sarsak attend and bring some glimpse of hope for the future youths. Well done for FC Barcelona much appreciated lateral thinking for global good.

    September 30, 2012 at 5:47 am | Report abuse |
  12. US Christian History 101

    Christian terrorists (not muslim "terrorists") gave warm blankets to poor starving native Americans whom had been herded like non-kosher animals onto reservations where they remain today. Christians then gave the non-kosher peoples several casinos to keep them happy and keep them on reservations. (called "Indian Nations now)
    Christians also purchased colored folk from Arab-African slavemasters and made many a creamy baby, then herded these neegrows in ghettos and gave them welfare to keep them there.
    You christians sure are clever. I'll give you that much.

    September 30, 2012 at 6:04 am | Report abuse |
  13. hobnob (iah)

    What do you call an American Christian who sides with Al Quida?
    OK, that was an easy one. Try this one:
    What do you call an American Muslim who sides with invading infidels and kills Muslims?
    US Army, active duty. (The Quran calls them "Renegade Muslims" who are to be dealt with "harshly" when caught by true Muslims)

    September 30, 2012 at 6:10 am | Report abuse |
  14. Howmany

    How many jews did Nazi German christians raype, murder, torture, expiriment on, and all-in-all generally disrespect?
    Well, 6 million in all. With most being murdered by people calling themselves "christians".

    September 30, 2012 at 6:15 am | Report abuse |
  15. Howmany

    How many christians have been bagged and tagged by christians over the past 150 years? (@ David Negev 3:12AM)

    September 30, 2012 at 6:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      good question...first martyr latin version of the word martys meaning the one who gives witness was Jesus Christ...6million jews is a lotta people but jews do not not hold a monopoly on persecution not even with the nazis for the nazi hated christianity too...50million aborted babies, the holy innocents, are still being martyred and they are the martys of life and martys of life's dignity...they too are subjected to the same baby killings principles backing pharoh's edict surrounding Moses birth, Herod's edict with the child Jesus birth, Marxist's edict of jewish children, Margaret Sanger's edict against black and disable children, Roe vs Wade's edict against every conceived child in the womb...like the dragon, the great beast, in the book of revelation their hatred against children is sooo great they can't even wait for them to be even born...they would attack them while they still lay in their mother's womb...that is whatchoo call bonafide hate...and you have alotta stupid people outraged by nazi atrocities and condone abortion...go figure!?!?!?

      September 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
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