The European Jewish Association presented its prestigious King David Award for 2021 to Chelsea Football Club during their Champions League game against Italian side Juventus on Monday evening.
Chelsea, who are the defending champions of the UEFA Champions League – the preeminent soccer tournament for club teams around the world – accepted the award in their London stadium, known as Stamford Bridge.
The recognition comes as a result of Chelsea’s “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign, which launched in 2018 and is funded by club owner Roman Abramovich – who is Jewish. The campaign was developed in order to raise awareness of and educate players, staff, fans and the wider global community about the perils of antisemitism.
“On behalf of all of our members and communities, we applaud and thank everyone at Chelsea Football Club,” said EJA chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin.
“We are honored to be the latest recipients of the European Jewish Association’s King David Award,” said Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, who received the award on behalf of the club. “Since our club owner Roman Abramovich initiated our 'Say No To Antisemitism' campaign in January 2018, we have been committed to working with Jewish organizations nationally and internationally to help stamp out antisemitism from our societies.”
“We will continue to use our global platforms at Chelsea to say no to antisemitism and keep up the fight against this and all other forms of discrimination,” Buck stated.
Antisemitism is common in British soccer and European soccer as a whole, with instances of antisemitism frequently recorded among fans in the stadium. Most notably, the English team and Chelsea rival Tottenham Hotspur’s Jewish supporters colloquially refer to themselves as the “yid army” – a play on the Yiddish phrase “Yid,” which roughly translates to “Jew.” Opposing fans have been documented using the term derogatorily against self-proclaimed “yids.”
The 2020 recipient of the King David Award was Lebanese businessman Abdallah Chatila, who made global headlines when he bought 600,000 euros worth of Nazi Memorabilia at an auction to donate to Jewish organizations, and who has since supported many initiatives that combat antisemitism.
“Antisemitism targets Jews but infects society as a whole," he said. "Ignorance, hatred and xenophobia have no place in a world where borders are increasingly meaningless, where values are universal and where different identities are to be cherished.”
“I am proud to be here tonight at Chelsea, to be a continuing link in a chain of those committed to combatting antisemitism," Chatila said. "Chelsea Football Club has a huge reach. They could have opted for an easier route. Instead, they decided to tackle the issue head-on. It is inspiring to see – and for others to follow and emulate.”