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Lionel Messi, Neymar head to Middle East on “Peace Tour” with Barcelona

Aug 1, 2013, 11:52 AM EDT

Neymar, Lionel Messi AP

When Barcelona meet Brazilian side Santos in a friendly on Friday at the Camp Nou, there will be a quick dash to the airport afterwards.

They’ve got places to be. People to see. Peace to spread.

On Saturday afternoon Barca will be in the Middle East as part of their Peace Tour initiative, as Lionel Mesi, Neymar and a whole host of stars will visit Palestine and Israel over the weekend.

In a statement the Catalan club said.

“FC Barcelona, with the full cooperation and support of the Government of Israel and the Palestinian National Authority, will host two football clinics for peace. One will be in Israel and the other in the West Bank and both will involve children from Israel and the Palestinian Territories.”

With past events going very well and Barcelona trying to help the region overcome its differences through sport, can soccer really play a big part in the peace process? We will have to wait and see.

But youngsters in both countries will have the chance to meet up with and play soccer against Messi, Neymar, Xavi and others. That will certainly bring some respite from the long-standing dispute, and Barcelona’s links with UNICEF have helped put the children involved in the conflict at the forefront of their thoughts.

Help from both governments was needed to put on the event, and Barca thanked Israel and Palestine for making it happen.

“FC Barcelona wants to thank Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his personal commitment to this project, as well as President Shimon Peres and the President of the Palestine National Authority Mahmoud Abbas for their vision and leadership.”

Both the Israeli and Palestinian Football Association will all be involved in the events and the respective governments will provide all necessary assistance, with Barcelona’s high-profile visit sure to cause logistical headaches and plenty of other concerns.

All the money made from the Peace Tour will be donated to the promotion of peace between Israelis and Palestinians “through the values of sport.”

And the club is aiming to keep their long association with promoting peace in the region as they state that Barcelona “has become a channel for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians” and that the club is “committed to continuing the ongoing effort to bring peace to the area.”

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