Former Palestinian football player and hunger-striker Mahmoud al-Sarsak said that he would attend the FC Barcelona’s game against Real Madrid next month, but not in the same stand as former Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Sarsak told AFP that the invitation is very precious to him but would have to opt not to attend the game if he has to share the same stand with Shalit.
“This invitation is very important for me and for the Palestinian people but I will not be able to accept it unless the Palestinian Authority gives me authorization,” Sarsak said.
Sarsak said if he shares the same box on Oct. 7 with Shalit this will suggest an act of “normalization” with Israel.
“Sports and politics mix here,” he said.
Reports over FC Barcelona sending an invitation to Shalit raised furor among Arab fans of the Spanish club, which quickly moved to deny the reports, saying they have not extended invitation to Shalit but accepted a request from him to watch the game.
“The Club did not invite Mr. Shalit to the game, but accepted a request to watch a match during his visit to Barcelona,” according to a statement posted in the club’s website.
The club said they have also accepted three requests for invitations from the Palestinian embassy in Spain.
“In the same manner as Mr. Shalit’s request was accepted, the Club has also accepted the Palestinian embassy’s request to extend three invitations to three Palestinian delegates. Musa Amer Odeh, Palestinian Authority ambassador; Jibril Rajoub, President of the Palestinian Football Union, and the Palestinian footballer Mahmoud al-Sarsak will also watch the Clásico at the Camp Nou,” the statement said.
Sarsak was arrested in July 2009 on his way for a West Bank club signing and was released in July this year after he protested and went on hunger-strike for three months.