Are Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona headed to Gaza? Hamas
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Monday that Qatar's emir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, had vowed to try to get the Catalan football club to visit the Strip.
The Qatari ruler reportedly made the promise during his visit to Gaza
last week. The Qatar Foundation, established by the emir, is FC Barcelona's sponsor. Two years ago, the club signed a shirt sponsorship deal with foundation worth $150 million for five years.
Barcelona is considered the most popular soccer team in the world, and it has a huge fan base among the Palestinians as well.
Shalit at Barcelona-Madrid game (Photo: AP)
Earlier this month, the Gaza government called for a boycott
against a Barcelona-Real Madrid match after former IDF soldier Gilad Shalit
was officially invited by the Barcelona management to watch the game at the Camp Nou stadium.
Shalit's invitation to the match sparked protests and demonstrations, including a rally outside the Spanish Consulate in east Jerusalem. In addition, tens of thousands of people watched a YouTube clip showing Palestinian children in Barcelona shirts being shot dead by and IDF tank.
To redress the balance, Barcelona also invited
Mahmoud Sarsak, a former Palestinian soccer player who was released from an Israeli jail in July where he was held for three years without charge, but Sarsak said he would not share the same stadium with Shalit.
"I refuse to sit in the same place with a murderer who arrived in a military tank," he said of Shalit. "I respect Barca's invitation, but I must not anger the Palestinian people who supported me during my hunger strike in prison."
Reuters contributed to this report
You can contact Elior Levy, Ynet's Palestinian Affairs Correspondent, at: firstname.lastname@example.org