Chelsea FC continues fight against antisemitism with donation to IWM

The latest initiative from club owner Roman Abramovich to combat antisemitism is a donation to the Imperial War Museum in London for a new Holocaust Gallery.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Petr Cech, club chairman Bruce Buck, and captain Cesar Azpilicueta are part of Chelsea's "Say No to Antisemitism" campaign. (photo credit: CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB)
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Petr Cech, club chairman Bruce Buck, and captain Cesar Azpilicueta are part of Chelsea's "Say No to Antisemitism" campaign.
British soccer club Chelsea FC continued its fight against antisemitism last week with a private fan event at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London, to honor owner Roman Abramovich’s donation to the museum’s new Holocaust Galleries, scheduled to open in 2021.
The donation, part of the club’s “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign, contributes part of a £30.5 million project, which will enable the IWM to open new Second World War Galleries, Holocaust Galleries, and a digitally-enabled learning center.
Diane Lees, director-general of the IWM, said, “This donation will enable the IWM to reinterpret these [Holocaust and Second World War] galleries, which will present critical insights into the Holocaust as well as integrate the devastating events of the Holocaust into the broader history of the Second World War.”
Speakers at the event included Lees herself and Chelsea FC chairman Bruce Buck, and other appearances included ex-Chelsea player and technical and performance adviser Petr Cech, and current club captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
Ninety-year-old Łódz-native and Auschwitz survivor Zigi Shipper also spoke to those in attendance, reliving his experiences during the Holocaust, and traveling around the UK to speak to young children, imploring all to keep educating.
Buck told The Jerusalem Post, “We have been trying something different, which is education. And it seems to be the right way to go. When we have an incident, we look first at education.
“Many incidents are just people not understanding how they are hurting others, young people repeating what they’ve heard from outside,” he said. “So in those kinds of situations, education can really help.”
Club captain Azpilicueta told the Post, “As club captain of Chelsea, I’m very proud to be part of this club. We are very active, our owner has great commitment to the cause, and, obviously, everybody at Chelsea feels the responsibility to help with it."
Azpilicueta also said the fans of Chelsea are key to making the campaign a success. “The fans, they travel home and away where they meet, they go to different places, different countries,” he said. “They are key for us to keep working against antisemitism. Our fans are aware of the work that our club is doing.”
When asked what it was like for professional footballers to learn about the Holocaust, Azpilicueta told the Post, “We know what happened in the past was horrible, and as we’ve seen tonight was a great chance to listen and hear from a Holocaust survivor. We would like to hear more from him [Zigi], they have led such lives, and the experience they had. Obviously, education is very important. To hear from him [Zigi] tonight was very inspiring.
“We feel a big responsibility because we know how powerful football is today. We can reach millions of people [through social media],” Azpilicueta said. “We are living almost in 2020, and we shouldn’t be talking about these kinds of issues.”
Chelsea, along with the club’s charitable arm the Chelsea Foundation, have been leading the fight among Europe’s soccer clubs against antisemitism, with the club’s “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign, which began in January 2018 and aims to raise awareness of and educate players, staff, fans and the community at large about antisemitism.
The club sent delegations of young players and staff to visit Auschwitz, together with the Holocaust Educational Trust, and last year, Chelsea became the first Premier League team to send a delegation on the March of the Living in Poland.
Buck told the Post that the response of the players to visiting Poland was, “impactful, as to how the visit had affected these 15- and 16-year-old boys. They were talking about how they’re going to talk to their parents about it, and they’re going to talk to the other players about it. These kinds of things really make a difference”
Auschwitz survivor Harry Spiro spoke to Chelsea’s players at the club’s training ground earlier this year, and in the summer, Chelsea played a friendly match at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, against American MLS club, New England Revolution. The match was called the “Final Whistle on Hate,” and all proceeds were donated to 15 organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, Community Security Trust, World Jewish Congress and Jewish Agency for Israel, each of which are dedicated to combating antisemitism and discrimination. In addition, Abramovich and New England's owner, Robert Kraft, each donated $1 million in support of the cause.