Israeli president Isaac Herzog has hailed Chelsea as a “force for good” in the battle against anti-Semitism and racism.
President Herzog joined owner Roman Abramovich at Stamford Bridge on Sunday to view artist Solomon Souza’s installation 49 Flames.
British-Israeli artist Souza’s project pays homage to Olympic athletes murdered in the Holocaust, as part of Chelsea’s long-running ‘Say No To Anti-Semitism’ campaign.
Blues owner Abramovich followed up his rare trip to London last month to see family by making an appearance at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, alongside Israel’s president.
Abramovich had previously only been spotted in London back in 2018, but his recent visits offer another boost to a Chelsea side riding high at the top of the Premier League.
President Herzog addressed guests at Stamford Bridge by praising Chelsea’s long-running work combating discrimination.
“In the face of rising anti-Semitism from all extremes, it is our responsibility to stand up to all forms of racial and religious hate, to speak out against extremism and discrimination,” he said.
“And to educate the next generation about tolerance and mutual respect.
“Thank you, Roman Abramovich, Bruce Buck, leaders, players and members of Chelsea, working together with you over the past few years has been a true honour and pleasure, in combating anti-Semitism and saying no, saying no to anti-Semitism.
“This has left me hopeful. Your football club is a shining example of how sports and teams can be a force of good and for shaping a more tolerant tomorrow.
“Thank you all for recruiting your influence in sports, perhaps the most powerful instrument for reaching the greater public, as an educational tool against anti-Semitism and racism and for the advancement of mutual acceptance and diversity.”
Chelsea supporters will hope Abramovich’s recent visits to London and Stamford Bridge could now pave the way for the Russian-Israeli owner to attend a match in west London.
Abramovich was on hand to watch Chelsea lift the Champions League title in Porto with the 1-0 win over Manchester City in May.
The Chelsea owner is as passionate about fighting racism and anti-Semitism as he is driving the Blues to success on the field.
Abramovich also visited the Holocaust Galleries at the Imperial War Museum on Sunday morning, having previously donated funds to the project.
Holocaust survivor and former British Olympic weightlifter Sir Ben Helfgott was among the guests at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
President Herzog paid tribute to the former Olympian ahead of his 92nd birthday on Monday, in extolling the powers of sport in fighting hate.
“The emotions are so mixed and so special and I think it has to do with this mixture with a love of sport with memory and lessons for the future,” said President Herzog.
“Sports have their power to bring out the best in the human spirit.
“Sports give expression to the human potential, to determination, discipline and team work.
“Sports put competitors on an equal playing field and allows for positive and healthy negotiations between neighbourhoods and nations.
“At the same time the culture and politics of sports often time brings out the worst in our natures as we have seen over and over again in racist and anti-Semitic incidents inside and outside stadiums.
“The Jewish athletes portrayed in Solomon Souza’s stunning 49 Flames exhibit represents the strength and beauty of human will, performance and commitment to excellence, and a combination of pride in the country they represented and in their Jewish heritage.”
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