Barca stars visit Western Wall, meet leaders
Catalan football club begins second day of Israel trip with tour of holy site in Jerusalem. After being greeted by screaming fans, players put on skullcaps, place notes in wall and pray. In meeting with President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, they promise to help promote Mideast peace
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
As they walked from their bus to the Western Wall plaza, the celebrated Catalan players were greeted by hundreds of screaming fans, who arrived in Jerusalem from all over the country. The team's star, Lionel Messi, drew most of the crowd's attention.
The Barca players put on skullcaps and posed for a group photo at the holy site together with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
Neymar touches Western Wall stones (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
Fans waiting for Messi and Mascherano (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
Brazilian star Neymar appeared confused and shocked at commotion, while FC Barcelona's assistant manager Jordi Roura seemed particularly satisfied. Central defender Javier Mascherano surprised fans by getting off the bus and signing autographs.
Between the photographs and guided tour, the players found the time to place notes in the wall and even held a small prayer before getting back on their bus.
Peres: Teach us to strike a goal for peace
From the Western Wall, the team moved on to the President's Residence for a meeting with President Shimon Peres in a bid to promote peace in the Middle East. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the meeting as well.
"It's a great honor to host Barcelona in a holy city like Jerusalem," Peres said in his speech, thanking Barca President Sandro Rossell for "bringing this wonderful group here."
Peres welcomed the team and thanked Barca for "making the dreams of the children come true. Israeli and Palestinian children dream of two goals – scoring the winning goal at Camp Nou and the great goal of peace.
Rossell with Peres and Netanyahu (Photo: Daniel Bar-On, Debby Communications)
"I pray for the success of the talks between us and the Palestinians, because they are critical for our future," Peres added. "Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, you and the whole team can teach us and the Palestinians to play Tiki-Taka so we can score the goal we all hope for – the goal of peace."
Netanyahu continued the same line by saying, "Now I understand that's it's really simple: We just need Messi, Xavi, Iniesta on the field – and the negotiations are finished and there is peace.
"And now seriously, it's not simple and even complicated. I am just like your coaches. We all play on the international stage, you just make more than me," the prime minister joked.
"We all have to defend our home, and when we win everyone shares the victory and in a loss it’s our responsibility. I would be happy to have 1% of your fans, 80 million, to come to visit Israel. that would really help our economy."
Barca players at President's Residence (Photo: Daniel Bar-On, Debby Communications)
Rossell presented Peres and Netanyahu with Barca shirts and an autographed football. "It's a great honor for us to be here," he said. "The entire world is watching you, and let's hope the peace talks end successfully.
"We know our contribution to peace is a drop in the sea, but we will do everything so that this drop helps Israeli and Palestinian children. Clearly our goal is to gain titles and win, but we have another goal – to be your friends for life."
The visit will conclude with a special happening at 6 pm at the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv-Jaffa in front of some 14,000 viewers, mostly Jewish and Arab children invited by the Peres Center for Peace.
On Sunday night, the team will leave Israel for its Asian tour, which includes matches in Thailand and Malaysia.
Yael Shahrur contributed to this report