President Reuven Rivlin receives Real Madrid shirt from Florentino Perez, President of Real Madrid..
(photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)
A tour of a soccer club is seldom on the itinerary of an official visit by a head of state, unless a team from the leader’s home country is playing an important match.
But no Israeli team was playing Real Madrid when President Reuven Rivlin visited the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Tuesday where the popular soccer club is headquartered. It wasn’t a sudden decision, simply because the president had time on his hands. It was scheduled before he departed Israel, and although Rivlin enjoyed meeting Spain’s Royals and Prime Minister, the meeting he most looked forward to, was that with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, who took him on grand indoor and outdoor tour.
Rivlin an avid soccer fan, who at any time can reel off the names of European, Latin American and Israeli players of leading teams and talk about the goals they have scored, may have preferred to meet some of Real Madrid’s star players, but at least he had a chance to kick the ball.
He took full advantage of this opportu - nity to prove that he hasn’t lost his own skill, which has been honed by playing soccer with his grandchildren.
He also sat on the bench like any play - er, examined the trophies and looked at the players’ dressing rooms.
Of all the European soccer teams Rivlin favors Real Madrid; aware of this, Perez presented him with the club’s shirt with “Rivlin 1” emblazoned on the back. Rivlin didn’t hesitate to try it on.
Rivlin and Perez discussed the impor - tance of sport as a vehicle for inculcating positive values in youth and exchanged information on what each of their coun - tries is doing in this regard. Real Madrid is active in educating youth about sportsmanship and respect for the other, and Rivlin’s office is also active in promoting projects such as Israeli Hope in Sport and Shield of Honor prize.
The two men embraced when it was time for Rivlin to leave.
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