Olympic legend and Chelsea fan Sebastian Coe..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Chelsea Football Club’s “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign was only launched earlier this year, but it is already gaining momentum and recognition.
Last week, representatives of the club took part in the March of the Living in Poland from Auschwitz to Birkenau, including directors Bruce Buck and Eugene Tenenbaum, Sir Steve Redgrave, the Olympic legend and Chelsea supporter, Israeli Avram Grant – Chelsea’s former manager whose father was a Holocaust survivor – plus Jody Morris, Chelsea’s under 18 manager and players from the academy.
As part of this initiative, the Chelsea Foundation’s equality and diversity workshops in primary schools will be extended to talk specifically about Jewish faith and culture. The club will also launch an education program for supporters banned for antisemitic behavior, as well as helping them to understand the impact of their actions, with participation in the course potentially leading to a reduction in the length of their ban.
Additional activities taking place throughout the year will also include educational visits to former concentration camps for staff, fans and stewards, an exhibition at the Chelsea Museum on soccer and British Jews and screenings of Liga Terezin – a documentary about a soccer league run from a concentration camp during the Holocaust.
One of Chelsea’s most famous fans, athletics legend Sebastian Coe, who is currently the president of the IAAF, athletics’ world governing body, was in Israel earlier this week with the aim of promoting the program.
“The reason I joined was not just because I’m a Chelsea fan but because all my life I’ve been campaigning to keep discrimination out of sport in any way and it was a good initiative and I’m really happy to be here,” Lord Coe told The Jerusalem Post.
“It is something that I think is in the values of the club. I think this is a campaign that could go for many years. I think it will become part of the DNA of the club. Sport has consistently played the leading role in social change, much more than politicians, much more than other groups.”
The “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign was initiated and backed by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
“The Holocaust was a crime without parallel in history. We must never forget such atrocities and must do our utmost to prevent them from ever happening again,” Abramovich said ahead of the March of the Living. “We can all do something to challenge discrimination at our club as well as within the world around us.”
Coe, an Olympic gold medalist from the 1980 and 1984 Games, who among his many past roles also served as the President of the Organizing Committee for the London 2012 Olympics, believes that sport is a superb tool through which to fight antisemitism and discrimination.
“Sport is never the problem. Sport is 90 percent of the time the solution. It is more of a solution than politicians, more of a solution than any other area of activity. Sport deals with issues that politicians sometimes are afraid to address,” he explained.
“I’m really pleased that Chelsea has addressed it inside the football family. For many people, their football club is the main anchor point in their lives. I really believe in the campaign.”