Lionel Messi, Xavi and other Barcelona players meet with young Fukushima refugees

The 11 invited children received custom uniforms from Barcelona players before taking a commemorative photo during the team's evening training session in Yokohama
Players from European champions Barcelona spent time on Tuesday evening with children affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster during a practice session in Yokohama, Japan.

The children, ranging in age from nine to 18, have lived in Tokyo-area disaster shelters since being displaced by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster that devastated the north-eastern region of the country. Many of them lost relatives, and recovery efforts in and around the ravaged Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant are still ongoing.

"I'm glad we could meet [the children]," said defender Gerard Pique during the gathering.

"It's great that we could cheer them up."

Star players such as Lionel Messi and Xavi presented their special guests with Barcelona jerseys, each with their own names printed on the back.

"[Messi] was as cool as I thought he'd be," said 17-year-old Hikari Niizuma, who shook hands with the two-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"I don't think I can wash my hands again."

Barcelona will play Asian champions Al Sadd in the Club World Cup semi-final on Thursday night in Yokohama's Nissan Stadium.

Starting last month and continuing every Friday through to January, will publish extracts from Graham Hunter's highly-anticipated book, Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World. The most recent extract detailed how Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid have closed the gap on Barca following a period of Catalan dominance.

For all the latest Asian soccer news, features, and analysis, follow Asia on