Over 20,000 excited fans at Dura Stadium near Hebron got to experience
first-hand a Barcelona training session on Saturday in the first day of the
Spanish club’s Peace Tour in the Middle East.
The Barcelona squad,
including Leo Messi and new signing Neymar, arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport in the
early afternoon, and after a short break at the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel, visited
the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
Their next stop was Dura
Stadium where they underwent a full training session before returning to
Jerusalem ahead of an even busier day on Sunday.
The team will visit the
Western Wall before taking part in an official reception with Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres in the president’s
At around 6 p.m., the team is scheduled to arrive at
Bloomfield where a capacity crowd of 14,500 spectators, who all received free
tickets, will be on hand to watch the clinic.
Barcelona will leave Israel
just before midnight on Sunday on a flight to Bangkok, the first stop of its
President Peres will officially open Sunday’s event by
delivering remarks during which he will emphasize the importance of the visit by
Barcelona in Israel and the Palestinian Authority for advancing peace and
tolerance through sport. After the remarks by President Peres, Prime Minister
Netanyahu and the president of FC Barcelona Sandro Rosell will also deliver
remarks. As part of the welcome ceremony, Education Minister Rabbi Shay Piron
will present a charter of tolerance and acceptance of the other named “The Other
is Me” initiative which will be signed by President Peres, Prime Minister
Netanyahu, Sports Minister Limor Livnat and Minister Piron. At the end of the
reception there will be a group photograph of the players with President Peres
and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Barca arrived in Israel the day after its
8-0 victory over Brazilian club Santos in the Joan Gamper Trophy for what the
club is calling a “historic” trip with the aim of strengthening “institutional
ties with the leaders of the two communities and build bridges of dialogue for
Neymar marked his home debut for Barcelona on Friday with a fine
assist but a goal eluded the Brazil forward against his former club.
21-year-old, who completed a high-profile move to Spain at the end of May, came
on at halftime at the Nou Camp and set up Cesc Fabregas to score his second of
the night before shaving the crossbar with a fierce effort of his own late
World Player of the Year Messi set Barca on their way with a goal in
the eighth minute and was on the pitch with Neymar for the first time for just
over 15 minutes at the start of the second half before the Argentina forward was
Santos defender Leo netted an own goal in the 12th minute
before Alexis Sanchez made it 3-0 to the home side 10 minutes later and Pedro
added another in the 28th.
Spain midfielder Fabregas looked sharp after
he came on at halftime and quickly made it 6-0 with a welltaken double before
smashing a free kick against a post and Adriano and B team teenager Jean Marie
Dongou completed the rout.
Barca begins the defense of its La Liga title,
chasing a fifth triumph in six seasons, at home to Levante in just over two
Neymar said he is living a boyhood dream by joining up with
“When I am training it feels like being in a dream,” said Neymar,
the standout performer for his country in their Confederations Cup triumph in
“A dream I had when I was a kid and that is coming true now,” he
added. “I turn my head and there is Messi. Or Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta or [Carles]
Puyol. I feel complete, it is like a dream. I am really, really
Neymar is likely to occupy a position wide on the left under new
coach Gerardo Martino, with Messi in his more central role, and Barca fans are
eager to see how the gifted pair will perform.
Neymar said he saw no
reason to change the way he plays and that he and Messi were fully
“I have to keep on doing my thing and fulfill this dream,” he
“He is wonderful, Messi. He is always happy, he is a great guy. We
talk every day.
“Don’t worry, I am sure there is going to be no problem
at all. He is my idol. For me, he is the best. I respect him a lot and I hope to
be able to help him out.”
Neymar and the rest of the Barca players and
staff alike spent their one night here in Israel at the Inbal hotel which
prepared tailor made special meals to meet with the athletes’ specific dietary
requirements. The club and Comtec, the company producing the visit, picked the
hotel out of all of the five star hotels in Jerusalem due to its ability to meet
the strict requirements as well as the high level of service that the city’s
only Five Star Deluxe hotel can provide.
Bruno De Schuyter, General
Manager at the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel, said: “We are proud to host Barcelona on
this historic trip to Israel. They will enjoy the hotel’s gourmet food which
will be healthy and balanced as well. The Inbal is dedicated to provide its
guests with a truly luxurious Jerusalem experience coupled with a healthy and
active lifestyle. The entire team will have that and more while they’re with
The hotel made an array of special arrangements based on the team’s
strict requirements. Over 100 rooms were set aside for the players, coaches,
staff and families. They will be staying on separate floors in rooms with
spectacular views of the Israeli capital.
Reuters contributed to this