Egyptian football legend Mohamed Abou-Treika has refused to partake in an inter-faith match for peace between Israel and Palestine, organised by the Catholic Church.
As Egypt mediates ongoing truce talks between Israel and Palestine, an Egyptian footballer has made it clear that he refuses to play in a peace match organised by Pope Francis.
The peace game is intended to be a match consisting of legendary football players promoting peace between Israel and Palestine. Turning down the invitation to play is 35-year-old former Egyptian football legend Mohamed Abou-Treika, who tweeted on Sunday, "I rejected the invitation because of the [participation] of the Zionist entity. We are setting an example to the new generation."
The rejection does not come as a surprise, as Abou-Treika has long been explicit in his sympathy for Palestine, having displayed a “Sympathise with Gaza” t-shirt at an African Cup of Nations.
Israeli websites claim that Abou-Treika has declined the invitation because he refuses to play on the same side as Israeli player Yossi Benayoun. These claims are, however, unconfirmed. Further, the same site alleges that Abou-Treika's agent refuted the claims that Abou-Treika refused to play because of Benayoun's presence, rather stated that it was due to "personal matters that he must deal with in the coming period." However, he failed to elaborate further on these personal matters. Also invited to play is Egyptian veteran Wael Gomaa; however he is yet to declare his stance.
The interfaith match for peace is being organised by the Roman Catholic Church, and will be taking place at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on September 1, and will feature football legends Lionel Messi, Gianluigi Buffon, Zinedine Zidane, Diego Maradona, Javier Zanetti, Roberto Baggio, Andrea Pirlo, Yuto Nagatomo and Samuel Eto'o.