Soccer Star Lionel Messi Says Argentinian Team Visiting Jerusalem Ahead of FIFA World Cup ‘Will Do Us Good’
Soccer star Lionel “Leo” Messi believes visiting Jerusalem with his Argentinian team this summer will bring them luck as they head into the FIFA World Cup.
The two-time world champion Argentinian national soccer team is scheduled to play a friendly match in Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium on June 9 just seven days before heading to Russia for its opening game against Iceland in the World Cup. Many of Argentina’s soccer players are Catholic and believe that having the opportunity to pray in Jerusalem will increase their chances to win the World Cup, according to The Jewish Chronicle.
Messi, the team captain, said, “I really want to visit the Holy Land and for Argentina this will be an important professional and spiritual journey and I’m convinced that coming to Israel ahead of the World Cup will do us good.”
Pope Francis, an avid Argentina fan, will reportedly send an emissary to hold a special mass for the team in Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, according to The Jewish Chronicle.
In 1986, Argentina beat Israel 7-2 in the Ramat Gan stadium several weeks before the World Cup in Mexico, which it won. Argentina additionally played in Israel before the 1990, 1994 and 1998 World Cups. Israel won the 1998 match 2-1.
Messi has previously visited Israel, and sparked outrage in the Arab world in 2015 when he picked the “Jewish name” Benjamin for his second son.