Soccer powerhouse FC Barcelona may hold a preseason game in Israel over the summer, according to a report in Spain.
A deal for the team to travel to Israel and Germany in August has yet to be closed, but a proposal to play in those two countries was considered the best option in light of COVID-19 restrictions, the Catalan daily Ara reported.
Citing sources at the La Liga club, the newspaper said the talks to play in Israel began before the recent fighting in the Gaza Strip between the Israeli military and Hamas terror group. However, the hostilities — which ended with a ceasefire early Friday — were said to have caused some reluctance within the club over travel to Israel.
If the deal to play in Israel is sealed, it will be the first time Barcelona plays a preseason game in the country.
The team, led by its Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi, in 2013 played a friendly match in Jaffa before a crowd of young Israelis as part of a two-day “peace tour” in the Holy Land.
Messi also traveled to Israel in 2019 for a friendly match between the Argentinian and Uruguayan national teams, which saw him square off against his then Barcelona teammate Luis Suarez.
That game was put in doubt due to fighting the week before the match between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second-largest group in Gaza after the Strip’s Hamas rulers.
The year before, Argentina and Messi were scheduled to play the Israeli national team in Jerusalem before traveling to Russia for the World Cup, but the squad canceled the trip on short notice after intense pressure from Palestinian officials and activists.