Palestinians refuse to team up with Israel against soccer greats
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Palestinians refuse to team up with Israel against soccer greats

Amid West Bank violence, football association president says dream of friendly match against FC Barcelona has to wait until end of occupation

President Shimon Peres and FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell at a press conference in Tel Aviv on February 21, 2013 (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO/Flash90)
President Shimon Peres and FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell at a press conference in Tel Aviv on February 21, 2013 (photo credit: Mark Neyman/GPO/Flash90)

Palestinian football officials on Friday said their players won’t team up with Israelis in a match against FC Barcelona that was designed to promote peace.

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

Rosell launched the initiative Thursday with Israeli President Shimon Peres. Barcelona FC is the most beloved foreign soccer club in Israel and in the Palestinian territories, Rosell told reporters, praising Peres as a man who “has done much for peace.”

Rosell said Barcelona aims “to strengthen the bridges of peace and dialogue” between Israelis and Palestinians. Peres said football “brings down barriers.” Both stressed that the game was “for peace, not profit.”

But Rajoub said “this issue is a good idea, a dream to become true if the occupation ends.”

On Friday, Palestinians held mass protests in Jerusalem and across the West Bank in support of several Palestinian inmates who have been hunger striking in an Israeli prison. The demonstrations escalated to violence, as protesters hurled stones and Molotov cocktails at IDF forces at several locations.

Barcelona, which features the Unicef logo on its jerseys, has previously shown interest in promoting peace in the region. In 2011 the Spanish club hosted six children from Israel and the Palestinian Authority for one of its home games.

Gaza-based fans were angered in 2012 when Barcelona gave freed Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit a ticket to one of its games. Shalit was held captive for five years by Hamas, which rules Gaza.

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