Barcelona to play friendly with Israelis, Palestinians

Lionel Messi (center) and Barcelona lost 2-0 to AC Milan in their Champions League first leg Wednesday.
Manu Fernandez/AP

Barcelona is trying to organize a match against a combined team of Palestinians and Israelis to promote peace.

Club president Sandro Rosell launched the initiative with Israeli President Shimon Peres on Thursday, and is set to discuss the event with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank on Friday.

The venue and date weren't disclosed, but Israeli media reported the friendly will take place on July 31 possibly at Ramat Gan Stadium near Tel Aviv.

Rosell says Barcelona aims "to strengthen the bridges of peace and dialogue'' between Israelis and Palestinians. Peres says football "brings down barriers.''

Barcelona's fans in Gaza were outraged last year when the team gave freed Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit a complimentary ticket. Schalit was held captive for five years by the militant Hamas, which rules Gaza.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.