Roshan Muhammed Salih argues that FC Barcelona have just insulted millions of Palestinians and handed the apartheid state of Israel a huge propaganda coup.
Like many football fans around the world my favourite team has always been Barcelona. I love the way they play the game – their mastery of possession, their constant attacking verve, their technical excellence, and, of course, their joker in the pack, the brilliant Lionel Messi. If you are interested in making Lionel Messi part of your fantasy soccer team, you might be want to check out https://www.fanduel.com/soccer for more information.
In fact, the only black spot on their record for me is the blatant cheating of the likes of Sergio Busquets. But that aside, they’re always the team I want to win because they play the game the right way.
But from this day onwards it’s “Anyone but Barca” for me.
FC Barcelona have just completed a so-called peace tour of Israel and the Palestinian territories. According to the club, this was to strengthen “institutional ties” with the leaders of the two communities and “build bridges of dialogue and peace.”
Lionel Messi and his teammates put on a display of skills and training techniques before 12,000 children in Tel Aviv. Dozens of young Israelis took part in the training session alongside Barcelona’s stars, including Dani Alves, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta and new signing Neymar.
Before the session began President Shimon Peres thanked the players. “You are ambassadors of peace. You brought light to our people, hope to our children and a message of peace to the Middle East,” he said.
Earlier, the Barcelona squad visited Jerusalem’s Western Wall. All of the team members wore traditional Jewish skullcaps and many were seen leaning their heads against the ancient stones, apparently taking a moment for personal prayer.
The two-day trip for the Spanish champions also included meetings with Palestinian politicians in Bethlehem and Israeli leaders in Jerusalem, as well as two soccer clinics for Palestinian and Israeli children.
Okay, let’s call a spade a spade – whoever advised Barcelona to visit Israel needs their heads examining.
Don’t they realise that Israel was created following the theft of Palestinian land and ethnic cleansing? Don’t they realise that millions of Palestinian refugees are living in squalid camps around the Middle East as a result of that ethnic cleansing?
Don’t they realise that Israel is still effectively occupying the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Lebanese and Syrian territory? Don’t they realise that Israel systematically discriminates against the Arabs who live within its borders?
Don’t they realise that Israel is a regional bully which has constantly waged wars against its neighbours? Don’t they realise that there is no parity between Israel and the Palestinians and therefore treating both sides equally is effectively favouring one side over the other?
Yet despite all this one of the most famous football clubs in the world decides to give this pariah entity legitimacy amid huge media fanfare.
And believe you me the Israeli establishment is positively crowing about this. Israeli politicians couldn’t wait to get their pictures taken with Messi et al and the Israeli media hailed the Barca players as true heroes.
Peace and friendship?
Now some may say that FC Barcelona’s speciality is football not politics and they were only doing their best to bring communities together in the spirit of peace and friendship. To that I would say – BS.
Everyone with half a brain cell knows what’s happening in Palestine and ignorance and naivety is no excuse. Moreover, what do ordinary Palestinians think about Barca visiting Israel? Or did the club even bother to ask?
The timing of the tour also seems suspicious, when the Palestinian Authority (which is rejected by at least half of Palestinians and probably more) is conducting negotiations with Israel in the United States. Negotiations which will almost certainly favour the Israelis and Palestinian elites.
In fact, Barcelona President Sandro Rosell said this about the peace negotiations: “All of the world is watching you and the negotiations and we all pray these negotiations will end in a good manner.”
And on a side note I’d also like to know what the Muslim Arab state of Qatar – which sponsors Barcelona – thinks about the football club’s visit to Israel. Is Qatar thinking of withdrawing its funding now that Barca has given legitimacy to a country which is oppressing its brethren?
Sport and politics
Unfortunately, sport has become so corrupted by the modern world of money and power politics that it isn’t about sport anymore. It’s about making huge amounts of money by manipulating the masses and selling them a vacuous, unrealistic dream.
I wish teams like Barca would just stay away from international politics altogether and just play sport like they’re supposed to do. Or if they do feel obliged to enter the political arena at least they could take the side of the oppressed rather than the rich and powerful.
So the next time FC Barca play I hope they get stuffed by whoever they play. But the sad thing is that their opponent will also probably be a capitalist monster in the pocket of big business. So I hope they both lose – is that possible?