Spain's FC Barcelona starts two-day 'peace tour' in Middle East

Spain's FC Barcelona starts two-day 'peace tour' in Middle East
FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, left, participates in a training session with Palestinian children at Dura stadium in the West Bank. (Abed al Hashlamoun / EPA)

BETHLEHEM, West Bank -- Spain's popular FC Barcelona soccer club on Saturday started a two-day "peace tour" with Palestinians and Israelis.

Thousands gathered in a soccer stadium in the southern West Bank town of Dura as players interacted with children, held workshops and played short games.

Earlier, the team arrived in Bethlehem, where they visited the Church of Nativity and met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Assn., described the team's visit as "a historic moment for the Palestinian people" and "a step toward achieving peace in the region."

Similar events are planned Sunday in Israel.

FC Barcelona President Sandro Rosell said he was happy that his team's visit came with the start of peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis, adding that his team "would do anything ... to help the peace process."


Abukhater is a special correspondent.