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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Real Madrid honours Palestinian icon Ahed Tamimi in slight to Israel

The Spanish football club gave the 17-year-old a shirt with her name on the back

Palestinian 17-year-old activist Ahed Tamimi speaks during a press conference in Athens, Greece, 23 September 2018. EPA
Palestinian 17-year-old activist Ahed Tamimi speaks during a press conference in Athens, Greece, 23 September 2018. EPA

Spanish football team Real Madrid found itself a new and unexpected opponent on Saturday: the Israeli government.

The La Liga and Champions League winners hosted Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi on Friday just hours before their Madrid derby against Atletico Madrid and gave her a team shirt with her name and the number nine printed on the back.

She is revered among Palestinians for her defence of her family home where two Israeli soldiers, part of the wider occupying force in the West Bank, stood armed.

She was filmed slapping one of the soldiers. The soldiers had shot one of her cousins in the head with a rubber bullet one hour before the incident.

In this image taken from social media, Ahed Tamimi poses with Emilio Butragueno during a visit to Real Madrid.
In this image taken from social media, Ahed Tamimi poses with Emilio Butragueno during a visit to Real Madrid.

Israel subsequently arrested her in December last year, when she was aged 16, for incitement to violence. She spent eight months in an Israeli prison before being released to joyous scenes among Palestinians in the West Bank.

The video, which went viral, cemented her legacy as a Palestinian icon, seen to be standing up for her people against the military force that occupies the land Palestinians seek for a future sovereign state.

The decision to host the 17-year-old Palestinian heroine in Madrid angered Israeli ministers who were quick to denounce the club as accepting someone that promotes hatred of the Israeli occupation.

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“What a shame, Real Madrid accepts a terrorist that incites to hatred and violence, what is the connection between this and soccer values?” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted.

Several other Israeli ministers tweeted out similar statements on social media in a bid to make Real Madrid back down from its stance of welcoming her to the club.

But the club appeared unaffected. It has not commented on the Israeli remarks and has not reversed its decision to hand the Palestinian teenager a personalised football shirt.

She travelled to the club’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium where she met with former Real striker Emilio Butragenio who is now a senior coach for the club.

Her father Bassem accompanied her on the trip to Europe, which took in France and then Spain. She took part in a series of political events while in the country, including speaking about her time in an Israeli prison.

Israeli security services said earlier this month that it would attempt to halt the travel of Ms Tamimi and her father for the 20-day trip to Europe. It remains unclear how they left the West Bank and made it to Europe.