Israeli player shows support 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.

Pope Francis on Wednesday launched the second edition of “Soccer for Peace,” an exhibition soccer match with all-star players scheduled for May 29 at the Olympic Stadium in Rome.

Standout Israeli professional soccer player Eran Zahavi was one of the first players from around the world 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,” said Zahavi in somewhat broken English, in his message.

Announcement of the match was made Wednesday at the Vatican by the Argentine-born pope, who joined by 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 at the Olympic Stadium in Rome. 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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