Real Madrid ready for 'Peace Match'

All the proceeds of the match in Ramat Gan will support the Peres Center's Twinned Peace Sport Schools program.

raul 88 (photo credit: )
raul 88
(photo credit: )
A mere 48 hours after clinching the Spanish league title in dramatic fashion, Real Madrid will face a mixed Israeli-Palestinian team in the "Match for Peace" at National Stadium in Ramat Gan on Tuesday night. The Peres Center for Peace has arranged numerous "Peace Matches" abroad against leading international teams in recent years, but on Wednesday the event will be held in Israel for the first time. All the proceeds will support the Peres Center's Twinned Peace Sport Schools program, which caters to Palestinian and Israeli youth from disadvantaged and peripheral communities. "These matches bring together cultures and countries," said Dror Kashtan, Israel national team coach and coach of the mixed Israeli-Palestinian team. "The divides disappear through sports. "Everybody is equal on the football field. We are very happy to face one of the biggest clubs in the world in Real Madrid." Yossi Benayoun, Dudu Awat, Idan Tal, Pini Balili and Abas Suan will lead the Israeli-Palestinian team, which also includes five Palestinian players. "It's always very exciting to play against such a big club," Balili said. "The match will be watched across the world and this is a good chance for the players to showcase their abilities. "Israeli and Palestinian children should play soccer together rather than throw stones." Real Madrid will arrive with an almost full squad, with David Beckham the only notable absentee. Raul, Iker Casillas, Fabio Cannavaro, Sergio Ramos and Emerson are just five of the players from a star-studded squad, which Israeli fans will be seeing first hand on Tuesday. "The trip to Israel will be a long one, but when we see the children's smiles it will all be worth while," Real captain Raul said ahead of the match. Madrid will be in high spirits on Tuesday after winning the Spanish League title with a dramatic comeback victory on Sunday night. The team rallied for a 3-1 victory over Mallorca and claimed a record 30th Spanish League title edging two-time defending champion FC Barcelona on head-to-head results and making the Catalan club's 5-1 win over Gimnastic Tarragona inconsequential. David Beckham's exit wasn't as dramatic as his replacement. Jose Antonio Reyes came in for the departing English midfielder in the 66th minute, scoring the equalizer a minute later and adding the finale in the 83rd as Madrid ended a four-year major trophy drought. Midfielder Mahamadou Diarra, who received special permission from FIFA to miss Mali's African Cup of Nations qualifier Saturday to play, headed in the winner in the 80th minute. Beckham, who will now join Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy, showed his trademark free kicks still had their bite with the England midfielder coming close to scoring on a number of chances. But in the end, the 32-year-old Englishman nibbled on his shoe nervously after being replaced while wife Victoria and friends Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, as well as French Open champion Rafael Nadal, watched from the stands as Madrid rallied again. "This championship is not so much a difficult one, it was almost miraculous one because we came from so far behind Barcelona to win," Real's Italian manager Fabio Capello said. "We suffered and fought to recover the spirit of this team. Tonight, we saw this." Madrid ended its longest major trophy drought in 53 years with wild celebrations and a lap of honor before throwing Capello into the air as the Italian won his second title as coach at Madrid. The other was in 1997. As the Madrid players names were read aloud, Beckham walked on to a loud ovation with his three children before kissing the center circle. The team traveled to the Plaza de Cibeles in the city center as is customary in an open-top bus to celebrate before thousands of cheering fans. The players waved flags and drank champagne while fireworks splashed across the sky. "The Real Madrid stars are an excellent example of how soccer can unite cultures, countries and nations, even those which may be in a conflict," Peres Center Sports Unit manager Gal Peleg said. "It's flattering to know that players from this very rich and busy club have chosen to help us further our cause and end their season in Israel together with us." AP contributed to this report On TV: Peres Center "Peace Match" - Real Madrid vs Peace Squad. (live at 8:50 p.m. on Channel 10)