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September 14, 2022 1:50 pm

Israeli Boy Battling Cancer Gets His Wish of Seeing Soccer Star Lionel Messi Play in Israel

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Argentinian soccer player Lionel Messi on 26 June 2018, celebrating a goal in the 2018 FIFA World Cup group stage match against Nigeria. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A 12-year-old suffering from a cancerous tumor in his head will fulfill his dream of seeing Lionel Messi play when the Argentinian soccer legend and his team Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) compete against Maccabi Haifa in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday at Israel’s Sammy Ofer Stadium.

Ilai Ron Hamarov has had surgery and is undergoing chemotherapy treatment after being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, Ynet reported. As soon as it was announced that Maccabi Haifa would play against the French soccer time, and that Messi would come to Israel for the game, Hamarov’s family and friends launched a campaign to have him see the soccer player compete in-person, according to the Israeli publication.

A close friend of Hamarov’s family then contacted Maccabi Haifa President Ya’akov Shahar, who gave the young boy and his brother two tickets to Wednesday’s match.

“It was impossible to get a ticket,” Hamarov’s brother told Ynet. “Ilai spent most of the past month in the hospital. This is a dream come true for him. And then, we got news out of nowhere. He really looked forward to it and couldn’t believe it. He is ecstatic. The moment I gave him the news he started shouting ‘Messi, Messi’ and went to watch videos of Messi in the living room.”

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Their mother added, “He is very happy, excited by the whole thing. If he also manages to meet him, it will be something that cannot be described in words.”

PSG will enter Wednesday’s game following a four-match winning streak, which includes last week’s 2-1 victory over Juventus in the Champions League group stage play. The team has made it far in its last 10 Champions League appearances, but have never finished with the title. Maccabi Haifa is making its first appearance in the Champions League group stage since the 2009-10 season.

PSG coach Christophe Galtier said on Tuesday that the French team faces stiff competition from Maccabi Haifa. He explained: “I have been talking to my players about the quality of our opponents and the intensity that there’s likely to be in the game … My players are made to play this competition and they’re all focussed on what they have to do in this kind of game. We’re going to face a difficult  opponent.”

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