Pray for peace, in the name of football
After being crowned Spanish league champion, Real Madrid's soccer stars travelled to the other end of the Mediterranean to play for Middle East peace.sports Updated: Jun 20, 2007 12:01 IST
After being crowned Spanish league champion, Real Madrid's soccer stars travelled to the other end of the Mediterranean to play for Middle East peace.
In a one-sided match, the Spanish football giant demolished its opponent, a mixed Israeli-Palestinian peace team with 8-0.
But the result of Tuesday evening's peace match at the Ramat Gan Stadium, Tel Aviv, is the last thing that all the participants cared about.
Real arrived in Israel Tuesday afternoon at the invitation of the Peres Centre for Peace, established by Israeli President-elect Shimon Peres.
At a press conference held shortly after Real's arrival, Peres congratulated the Spanish team for the league title they seized at the weekend, and said that during its visit in Israel, Real Madrid would not only be a football champion, but also a champion of peace.
With the participation of Read Madrid players, the peace match would convey a message to the world that Palestinian-Israeli teamwork and cooperation are possible, said the president-elect.
Real Madrid arrived with an almost full squad, with David Beckham, whose contract with Real has expired, the most notable absentee.
Raul, Iker Casillas, Fabio Cannavaro, Sergio Ramos and Emerson are just five of the players from a star-studded squad, which Israeli fans saw first hand.
Prior to the start whistle of the peace match, a 30-minute children's match was also held, in which Real Madrid players met with Israeli and Palestinian children from the Peres Centre's "Twinned Peace Football School".
"The trip to Israel will be a long one, but when we see the children's smiles it will all be worthwhile," Real captain Raul said ahead of the match.
All the proceeds of the game will support the Peres Centre's football school programme, which caters to Palestinian and Israeli youth from disadvantaged and peripheral communities.
"The Real Madrid stars are an excellent example of how soccer can unite cultures, countries and nations, even those which may be in a conflict," said Gal Peleg, Peres Centre Sports Unit manager.
"We are ecstatic that the Real Madrid are here to help us promote peace in the Middle East and are honoured to host them at the end of their remarkable season." Peleg added.