President Shimon Peres wound up his four-day visit to Spain on Thursday by
watching a Real Madrid training session.
Peres was the guest of Real
Madrid President Florentino Perez and was introduced to all the players – each
of whom happily shook his hand – by coach Jose Mourinho.
The first to do
so was captain and goalie Iker Casillas.
Peres had a particularly warm
handshake and congratulatory comment for Algerian-born Karim Benzema, who had
scored the crucial goal in Real’s Champions League win in Lyon two days
Peres exchanged compliments and small talk with other players,
asking them about their positions on the team or telling them how good they
looked on the field, while they in turn told him what an honor it was to meet
him face to face and shake his hand.
After the mandatory souvenir group
photo with Peres, Casillas presented the Israeli President with a Real Madrid
jersey with his name and the number 1 – more or less making him an honorary
member of the club.
Peres has quite a collection of jerseys from his
various trips abroad, as well as a number of autographed soccer balls or
Peres told the members of the team what devoted fans they
had among the youth of Israel, who – just like millions of youngsters all over
the world – are completely enamored with them.
Calling the team “the best
ambassadors of peace”, Peres praised them for setting an example worth
“Sport is the best way to advance peace, fraternity and
equality, and it blurs the differences between countries, religions and
adversaries” he said. “On the field, everyone is equal.”
Peres made the
distinction between the battle field and the sports field, noting that the
contest on the sports field is usually bloodless and free of
Peres invited the whole team, including Mourinho and Perez, to
Israel as his personal guests.