Photo: Reuters
Barcelona players
Photo: Reuters
Gilad Shalit
Photo: Amit Magal
Barca invites 3 Palestinians after boycott
Following uproar over complementary ticket to former Israeli captive Gilad Shalit, Catalan football club invites footballer who was jailed in Israel, president of Palestinian Football Union and PA ambassador to October 7 match against Real Madrid
Barcelona has invited three Palestinians to attend the October 7 match against Real Madrid in response to Hamas calling for a media boycott of the club after it gave a complimentary ticket to former Israeli captive Gilad Shalit.


Barcelona announced in a statement that it had accepted the Palestinian embassy's request for tickets for footballer Mahmoud Al Sarsak, who was held in an Israeli jail for three years until being released this year following a hunger strike, along with the president of the Palestinian Football Union Jibril Rajoub and the Palestinian Authority ambassador to Spain.


Sarsak rejected the invite Sunday. The other two confirmed attendance.


The Spanish club also said it invited Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was held captive from 2006-2011 by Gaza Strip terrorists, after receiving a request for a ticket for him.


The invitation provoked controversy and protests from several pro-Palestinian groups.


According to a statement issued by a prisoners' organization in Gaza, "Gilad Shalit's invite is a new cover up of Zionist crimes under the pretense of sports. How can a dignified sports club, which calls for culture and humanity, invite a murderer and criminal like Shalit to honor and thank him?"


The Palestinian press called on Arab sports and soccer unions to protest the decision.


Hamas official Attallah Abu Al Subah had said that no TV station in Gaza would broadcast Barcelona matches and no papers in the coastal strip would write about the club.


A source in the Catalan club told AFP, "We received a request from an Israeli minister to invite Shalit, and we accepted. It should be made clear that Barca takes no position through this invitation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


"We recall that in 2011 the club's vice president, Carles Villarubi, received Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and showed him the club facilities."


AFP contributed to this report




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