FC Barcelona looks to bring Messi to Bahrain

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Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates (Getty Images)

Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates (Getty Images)

A top FC Barcelona official is planning to put Bahrain “on the map through a culture of sport” by bringing icons including Lionel Messi to the Gulf state.

Barcelona Foundation director Josep Maldonado I Gili said superstars such as Barca forward Messi and tennis's Rafa Nadal could be flown to Bahrain to help boost the country’s sporting skills and encourage its youth to take part.

"Our aim is to invite private companies to sponsor clinics, academies and visits by sports stars, not just of football, but tennis, athletics etc,” Gili was quoted as saying by Gulf Daily News.

"Education can be linked to sport, with its values and targets. It's also healthy and promotes unity. “Bahrain could really be put on the map through a culture of sport - like the one in Spain."

Barcelona, the most successful Spanish football club and one of the wealthiest in the world, counts the likes of Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandes and Andres Iniesta among its line-up.

Gili, also a Spanish senator, already works with billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, Unicef and the Lionel Messi Foundation on numerous global social projects.

The club is already linked to the Gulf via shirt sponsor Qatar Airways.

But the club’s association with Bahrain could be controversial as the country faces ongoing accusations of human rights abuses against anti-government protesters.

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