Displaced youngsters meet Barça stars
© AFP

Two days prior to their eagerly-awaited first match at the FIFA Club World Cup 2011, Barcelona players expressed support for victims of the catastrophic events in Japan on 11 March this year with a magnificent gesture of solidarity. Prior to the club’s Tuesday afternoon training session in Yokohama, players and officials from the UEFA Champions League holders met 13 youngsters who were forced to abandon their homes at the time of the disaster.

The severe Tohoku earthquake some eight months ago caused a catastrophic nuclear event at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, leading to widespread radioactive contamination in the area. More than 100,000 residents were forced to evacuate their homes, including the group of children and youths aged from nine to 18 who are currently temporarily housed in a Tokyo school. All were visibly thrilled at the unique opportunity to meet FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and his team-mates.

The meeting was organised by the Tokyo-based Instituto Cervantes and the Spanish ambassador to Japan. The Barça stars answered all the questions put to them by the thrilled youngsters, before posing for photos and signing autographs. The players then resumed preparations for Thursday’s FIFA Club World Cup semi-final at Yokohama International Stadium against Asian continental champions Al-Sadd of Qatar.