RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — Israeli President Shimon Peres exchanged presents with Brazilian soccer star Ronaldo.
It was Peres’ second meeting with Ronaldo, who serves as a U.N. goodwill ambassador; they had previously met in Israel in 2002. The Thursday meeting took place in Sao Paulo, where Peres is spending a few days as part of a weeklong political and trade visit to Brazil.
Ha’aretz reported that protesters dogged Peres later in the day, when he met with Brazilian businessmen.
Dozens of protesters called the Israeli president a "war criminal." Some waved Palestinian and Lebanese flags and others carried signs comparing Peres to Hitler.
In his meeting with Ronaldo, Peres gave the soccer superstar a T-shirt of the Israeli soccer squad. The athlete’s gift was a shirt of his current team, Corinthians, with Peres’ name on it.
"In a match between Palestinians and Israelis, you are a star in the sky," Peres told Ronaldo. "You are a mirror to the youths. I remember your visit to Israel. I had never seen children with such bright eyes. Soccer has no nation or religion. You are a great person for your talent and personality. You represent peace. I invite you to come to Israel once again."
Ronaldo replied, "It’ll be an honor to me. I’ve been in both sides to convey a peace message. I’ll make a visit again."
Ronaldo is set to visit Lebanon in 2010 to play himself in an Iranian-made movie about a Palestinian girl who was killed in a refugee camp in Lebanon. He will appear in dream sequences in the true story of the girl who longed to meet the soccer superstar after losing her leg to an anti-personnel mine.