Israeli player speaks up for pope’s Soccer for Peace match


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (JTA) — An Israeli soccer player recorded a message of support for Pope Francis’ second Soccer for Peace exhibition match.

On Wednesday, the pope launched the second edition of Soccer for Peace featuring all-star players scheduled for May 29 at the Olympic Stadium in Rome.

Eran Zahavi of Maccabi Tel Aviv was among the first international players to upload a video message of support for the match on the Soccer for Peace YouTube channel.

“Shalom, this is Eran Zahavi player of Maccabi Tel Aviv and the national team of Israel, I would like to say all my support for the game for the peace. I send you from here big regards and all the best,” Zahavi said in somewhat broken English on the message.

The Argentine-born pope was joined in his announcement of the match at the Vatican by the Brazilian soccer star Ronaldinho and Costa Rican player Bryan Luiz.

Israeli player Yossi Benayoun participated in the first Soccer for Peace match.

The match is hosted by Scholas Ocurrentes, the Pontifical Academy for art, sports and technology to promote peace, as well as the Pupi Foundation, a charity founded by the Argentine soccer player Javier “Pupi” Zanetti.

The first Soccer for Peace match took place on Sept. 1, 2014, also at the Rome stadium.

While Benayoun participated, retired Egyptian soccer star Mohammed Aboutrika refused, tweeting: “This is a photo for the match invitation which I turned down because of the Zionist state.”

In May 2014, Francis hosted then-Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for a prayer summit at the Vatican.

Pope Francis has loved soccer since his childhood in Argentina, as is reflected in the children’s book “The Pope Who Loves Soccer.”

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