As sporting comebacks go, Boris Johnson’s football exploits are likely to be regarded as successful after he scored an easy tap-in and avoided injuring any children.
Weeks after he flattened a 10-year-old boy in Tokyo, the London mayor joined in a kickabout with the Israeli president.
Mr Johnson appeared to be reluctant in joining Reuven Rivlin in singing You’ll Never Walk Alone – the anthem of the president’s beloved Liverpool.
But the duo showed they were more in tune with each other on the pitch as Mr Johnson swept home from close range after Mr Rivlin’s shot was saved by a child.
— Justin Cohen (@CohenJust) November 10, 2015
The pair visited the Equaliser football project in Jerusalem, which is backed by the British embassy in Israel and seeks to bring Arab and Israeli children together.
They shook hands with the youngsters before briefly getting involved in a kickabout.
While Mr Rivlin displayed some nice touches and looked comfortable on the ball, Mr Johnson adopted a more cautious approach.
He was perhaps mindful of his most recent sporting experience in which he knocked Toki Sekiguchi to the ground during a game of street rugby in Japan.
He said: “As members of the British media will know, almost every sporting photo opportunity that involves me and young people ends in disaster of one kind or another – whether it’s playing cricket in India or, as I recently did, trying to play rugby in Japan.
“There was a very small child who got in my way. They said he was 10 years old but I think he must have been about 26. He was much older than that.
“I know that even if something goes wrong today it won’t really matter because the important thing is that this initiative in bringing people together through sport, through football – which teaches them discipline and friendship and self-esteem and how to work as a team, which is in the end it is all about.”
Referring to Mr Rivlin, the Conservative MP added: “This is a big Liverpool fan and we love Liverpool in every conceivable way. We love Liverpool Football Club but we also support all London teams.”
Mr Rivlin said: “We recognise London as the shrine of football.”
Mr Johnson replied: “That’s the spirit. Very good.”
The pair held a 30-minute meeting after the event and discussed Mr Rivlin’s view of the peace process and Israel’s relations with the Palestinians.
Syria was also raised along with sport, with the mayor’s office noting Mr Rivlin “professed his love” of English football and London clubs but remained faithful to Liverpool.