Wednesday will bring arguably two of the most popular and famous people in the world to Israel the Holy Land, Portuguese and Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo and the President of the United States of America Barack Obama.
The common links between these two superstars are fame and fortune, one providing entertainment on the football pitch, the other in the Oval Office.
If I were to choose whom I would rather meet, I would be left with a tough choice. On one hand here is the President, one of the most powerful people on the face of the planet. The other, a star that can do things with a football that only a few chosen athletes can and will ever be able to do.
Ronaldo began his rise to stardom at one of the most famous sports franchises in the world, Manchester United. He plied his trade well in England and became a fan favorite bringing home Premier League titles, a Champions League trophy and ascended to upper echelons of sports fame on the grand stage.
His career then moved on to Real Madrid, another one of the most storied franchises in sports history. On the Spanish stage he can now be compared and contrasted to his alter ego on the pitch, Argentinian superstar Leo Messi of Barcelona.
Under coach Jose Mourinho he is expanding his horizons and is in the hunt for another Champions League title, but his arrival in Israel is with the Portuguese National team will put him to the test as to where he can take this team not as talented as his current and former club teams. Nonetheless he leads a Portugal team that has its own stars who can handle to pressure on the pitch and produce results.
Barack Obama will make his first trip to Israel as President of the United States for a three day affair visiting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and of course taking in various sites such as Yad Vashem and Har Herzl.
The President of the free world will be discussing world threats from Iran, their nuclear program and other surrounding issues in hostile and non hostile Arab & Muslim states that encompass the only democracy in the Middle East.
He will visit Ramallah & Bethlehem, meet with officials representing the Arabs who live in Israel and try to restart the so called peace process. Obama will even visit my neighborhood as I live right by the US Consulate and he’ll smile for the cameras, talk at the convention center, and see what needs to be seen like every tourist that visits this beautiful country.
But for me the differences are very blunt.
I do not know Barack Obama other than what I have seen over the past 5 years or so of him. He began his career in civil service as a relative unknown with a shady background. Questions about his birth place have dogged him since entering the race for President back in 2007-2008.
Nor do I understand what his policy on Israel & the Middle East really is, nor do I know what his long term plans for the betterment of the United States is. “Yes We Can” & “Change” are very nice slogans that have captured part of the American public, and enough to give him a second term in office, but let’s face it, do I really want to sit down with him for dinner to try and find out what makes him tick? Is he truly the only decision maker on United States policy?
I do however know a bit more about Cristiano Ronaldo and much better than I know Barack Obama. I have followed his career over the past decade since his arrival at Old Trafford as a young 18 year old and I have seen him grow as an athlete and as an individual in his life as a footballer. And I do know what he is planning to do on his trip to Israel. Play in a World Cup Qualifier against my country Israel and attempt to use his magic to send his team further into the tournament.
I am a Sports fan first and foremost, I am The Sports Rabbi, I can only see myself sitting with one person for dinner, Cristiano Ronaldo.