In Israel, a billionaire tries diplomacy through sport

Sylvan Adams, a Canadian-Israeli business leader, wants to give a "normal" image of the Jewish state, but his initiatives are regularly caught up by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Time to Reading 3 min.

During the Argentina-Uruguay friendly match played by Sylvan Adams at the Bloomfield stadium in Tel Aviv on November 18th. RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS


Unpublished show in Israel: Monday, November 18, the Bloomflied stadium of Tel Aviv received the Argentine team of Lionel Messi where she was opposed to his rival Uruguayan. This match, not spectacular football but rather disputed as a mere gala event, and a rare level in this small country, ended on a draw (2-2). It was organized by a billionaire Canadian-Israeli, Sylvan Adams.

This son of the founder of one of the largest real estate groups in Quebec entrusted the management of the family business to his own son, and he moved to Israel in 2016.

At 60, he is not at his first attempt. This cycling enthusiast had started the Giro d'Italie in West Jerusalem, on the Israeli side, in 2018, at a cost estimated by the local press at 120 million shekels (27.5 million euros). It was he who had invited Madonna to sing at Eurovision in Tel Aviv in May 2019; a turn of song which was then judged rather missed.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Sylvan Adams, the patriotic billionaire who brought the Giro to Israel

Positive image of the country

Adams declined to reveal the cost of Monday's game, which sold 28,000 price-capped seats in a matter of hours. But this purchase puts it alongside a state, Saudi Arabia, which hosted, on Friday, another friendly football match, between the Argentine team and Brazil in Riyadh (1-0). The billionaire intends to use it to present a positive image of the country: «Here is Israel "normal" whom I know and love. Not a country of conflict but a country where children from all walks of life play football together in the streets and leagues »he said Monday.

Sylvan Adams at a press conference about the planned departure of the Giro d'Italie in West Jerusalem, here in Tel Aviv on April 22, 2018.
Sylvan Adams at a press conference about the departure of the Giro d'Italia in West Jerusalem, here in Tel Aviv on April 22, 2018. JACK GUEZ / AFP

Messi's passage from one "holy land" to another, however, remained suspended throughout the week for violent firefights in the Gaza Strip.

After Israel's targeted assassination of an Islamic Jihad commander, the Palestinian radical armed group fired two days at 450 rockets at the Jewish state, putting Tel-Aviv partially at rest, with no casualties. The Israeli army carried out a hundred strikes in Gaza, killing thirty-four people, including at least twenty militants, until a ceasefire was reached on 14 November.

In June 2018, the Argentine team had to give up playing in Jerusalem against the national team, in a preparation match at the Russian World Cup. The head of the Palestinian Football Federation, Djibril Rajoub, then campaigned against the holding of this meeting in the divided city, with unresolved international status. Faced with Palestinian anger, and thanks to an effective campaign on social networks, the meeting ended up being canceled.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here