Palestinian-Israeli soccer team to play Barcelona
A joint Israeli-Palestinian soccer team, labeled the "peace team" by some, arrived on Sunday in Spain to play against Spain's leading Barcelona team for a match scheduled for Tuesday evening.
The 27-member "peace team," which is sponsored by the Shimon Peres' Center for Peace, both Palestinian and Israeli soccer players from across Israel and the West Bank.
Coaches of the unique team include Israel's national team coach, Dror Kashtan, and Palestinian coach, Jamal Hadeideh of the West Bank town of Tul Karm, while players on the Barcelona team include Brazil's Ronaldinho, European Footballer of the Year Cameroon, Samuel Eto'o and Argentine prodigy Lionel Messi.
"Soccer is a language that anybody can understand," Kashtan told reporters. "I'm happy to be a part of the message that will go out to the world through this match - that Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in soccer is a natural thing," he added, according to <i>Haaretz</i>.
The Israeli coach added, "I hope that this game is only the first of many other joint sporting ventures that will take place in the future."
Movie actor Sean Connery will promote the game, and stated that "What we really need is to get back some of the optimism we had five years ago (in the Middle East peace process) and I'm sure there's going to be a change in the climate within a week."
Sporting events such as this are rare occurrences, and aside from several smaller initiatives for joint sports events between Israelis and Arabs, are almost non-existent in a region with many fervent Israeli, and Palestinian, soccer fans.
One such group is the Peres Center for Peace-sponsored school program for soccer and peace, a project which has brought together some 2,000 Israeli and Palestinian youths.
The match comes at the end of a two-day Euro-Mediterranean summit in Barcelona, which failed despite its efforts to reach one of its major goals of creating a terrorism code-of conduct.