Highlighting antisemitism in sports, Herzog speaks at Chelsea soccer club event

President hosted by London team owner Roman Abramovich and gives speech on ‘Say No To Antisemitism’ initiative; event also honors Olympic medalists murdered in Holocaust

President Isaac Herzog speaks with Chelsea FC club owner Roman Abramovich, at the team's stadium, November 21, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog speaks with Chelsea FC club owner Roman Abramovich, at the team's stadium, November 21, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

LONDON — Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich hosted President Isaac Herzog at the Stamford Bridge stadium on Sunday, as part of the Premier League soccer club’s campaign against antisemitism.

The small event, attended by about 50 people, was the first time Abramovich has been seen at Chelsea’s stadium since 2018, when he withdrew his application for a British visa renewal.

The Russian-Israeli businessman traveled to London as an Israeli citizen and he spent around two hours on Sunday morning at the Imperial War Museum London to see the Holocaust Galleries he helped to fund with donations.

Abramovich has been funding a “Say No To Antisemitism” initiative advanced by the club to address concerns about hatred toward Jewish people.

Herzog, at the start of a visit to London, highlighted concerns about discrimination in sports during an address to the audience in a suite at Chelsea’s stadium.

“The culture and politics of sport at times brings out the worst in humanity,” Herzog said, “as we have seen over and over again with antisemitic, racist, and violent incidents inside and outside stadiums, and in the refusal of athletes to compete against, or shake hands with, their Israeli counterparts.”

Chelsea FC club chairman Bruce Buckat unveils a shirt with President Isaac Herzog’s name on it, signed by the club’s players, November 21, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

“Your football club is a shining example of how sports and teams can be a force for good, and for shaping a more tolerant tomorrow,” he added.

The afternoon tea event also celebrated Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott, who went on to compete at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics for Britain in weightlifting. He turns 92 on Monday.

President Isaac Herzog and First Lady Michal Herzog speak with Holocaust survivor and former weightlifting champion Sir Ben Helfgott, November 21, 2021. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck highlighted the club’s “49 Flames” initiative that refers to the number of Olympic medalists who were murdered during the Holocaust.

“The Jewish athletes portrayed in Solomon Souza’s stunning 49 Flames exhibit represent the strength and beauty of human will, performance, and commitment to excellence, and the combination of pride in the countries they represented, and in their Jewish heritage,” Herzog said.

Abramovich may attend Chelsea’s Champions League match against Juventus on Tuesday. He has not been seen at a home game since the British visa complexities emerged in 2018.

Herzog flew to London on Sunday for an official three-day visit that will include meetings with Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Herzog will also meet with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, British parliamentarians and Jewish community leaders.

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