Tel Aviv: Israeli president Shimon Peres inadvertently kicked a ball straight into the midriff of startled Barcelona striker Lionel Messi as he launched a soccer event by the Spanish league champions in Tel Aviv on Sunday.
The remarkably energetic Peres, 90, dressed in a smart suit, addressed the Catalan team and 15,000 spectators at Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium who came to see Barcelona.
Barcelona have for years been involved in efforts to advance Middle East peace through sport and were making a brief stopover in Israel and the Palestinian territories en-route to a pre-season tour of Asia.
“Your message is play football and make friends, don't make war and make enemies,” he said before advising the young spectators to watch carefully because “I believe that a day will come and one of you will be like Messi”.
Israel’s head of state then proceeded to kick off the event by intending to pass the ball to Messi, but surprised the Argentinian striker by shooting it directly into his midriff. Messi appeared unfazed by the shot. (Reuters)