BOSTON - A friendly that was scheduled to take place Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachussetts between the Chelsea Football club and the New England Revolution to combat antisemitism received a very friendly advanced welcome on Tuesday.
In between practice sessions for the match - called The Final Whistle on Hate - Chelsea stars David Luiz, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Emerson Palmier traveled a half hour to the Boston suburb of Framingham to join about 100 after-school soccer enthusiasts from the Fuller and Cameron Middle Schools for a raucous half-hour of soccer practice.
Led by charismatic Brazilian star Luiz, who quipped, "this is the first time I'm entering a school in 20 years," the players received a hero's welcome from the diverse student body, which includes a sizeable Brazilian and Hispanic percentage.
In between a barrage of selfie requests - from students as well as star-struck parents and teachers - the players and guests also imparted the messages of diversity and inclusivity in sports, and in life.
"Hate and bigotry do not recognize boundaries," Robert Trestan head of Anti Defamation League in Boston, told the students. "These players are teaching a lesson of partnerships, and working together, and that's how you do it on the field, and in everyday life."
Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer told the The Jerusalem Post
that the visit by the players was significant for the students because Framingham is one of the Boston area's most diverse community.
"For many of these kids, especially the ones from Brazil, soccer is a huge thing. Masking that connection between sports and diversity is a win win all around, and the kids are having an awesome time," she said.
Spicer said that Framingham has experienced antisemitism acts and other hate crimes, but that the community will not tolerate it. "We're addressing it and fighting it every step of the way, it's a constant process. But events like this teach our children how to be advocates for each other."
The match Wednesday night is the culmination of Chelsea's Say No To Antisemitism campaign launched last year in England to combat antisemitism in the British soccer world.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and Revolution owner Robert Kraft also the owner of The New England Patriots, devised the match in light of a global rise in antisemitic activity and hate crimes, including the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last October.
On Tuesday, the list of beneficiaries of the charity match was announced, including proceeds from the game ans $1 million donations from both Abramomvich and Kraft. Among the organizations to receive funds include the ADL, the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, Hillel International, the Jewish Agency and Stand With Us.
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