Més que un club. More than a club. When former FC Barcelona president Narcís de Carreras said these words in 1968, he could not have predicted how the fiercely independent Catalan football institution would use its global brand to spread a message of peace, tolerance and understanding.
This commitment to social justice and repairing the world was on full display this past weekend during the club’s visit to the Holy Land for a “Peace Tour” with Israelis and Palestinians. In an historic trip to the region, Israeli and Palestinian children, many of them disabled, got to participate in soccer clinics with the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Gerard Piqué, Andrés Iniesta and other top footballers on the most popular team in the world.
In addition to meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmood Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Shimon Peres and other regional leaders, the team visited holy sites, including the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where Messi and his mates donned traditional Jewish skullcaps and said prayers against the ancient stones.
The “Peace Tour” wrapped up on Sunday with a soccer clinic in front of nearly 15,000 cheering youngsters at Bloomfield Stadium in the Tel Aviv District City of Jaffa, Israel. Saturday’s Palestinian soccer clinic took place at Dura Stadium near Hebron. Next for Barça is Asian Tour 2013, where they will visit Thailand and Malaysia.
“We know that coming here is a drop in the ocean, but for us this drop is very important, and we will deliver any drop we can give to Israel and the Palestinians to make peace happen,” current Barcelona president Sandro Rosell said.
Sports has always been about more than what takes place on the pitch, and no professional franchise embodies that spirit of unity more than FC Barcelona.