Emma Hayes has insisted sport must be a “vehicle for promoting harmony and diversity” in throwing her support behind Chelsea’s latest initiative against anti-Semitism.
Chelsea Women manager Hayes has built a formidable reputation as not only one of the most successful coaches in her field – but also one of the shrewdest thinkers in the sport.
The 44-year-old’s only route to a professional coaching career was to leave England for America in her teenage years – so the idea of ‘sticking to sport’ does not even threaten her agenda.
Hayes has been a central figure in Chelsea’s three-year long Say No To Anti-Semitism campaign, with a striking art project depicting sports stars killed in the Holocaust to be unveiled at Stamford Bridge this week.
“It’s fair to say there weren’t a lot of opportunities for me as a teenager, and I had to leave the country to create a career for myself which wouldn’t have otherwise existed,” Hayes told the PA news agency.
“And I always vowed that my role would be in creating a lasting legacy for the sport, to drive opportunities for women, for girls and women, into the profession.
“And that’s all I’ve really wanted – that we’re given the same access, that we’re given the same opportunity as boys and men.
“My greatest joy and pride will be that I was part of a football club that’s always so welcoming. I couldn’t have found a more compatible employer in terms of the moral standing and in terms of the contributions that they want to make within the community.
“We have to create the right opportunities to utilise our sport as a vehicle for promoting harmony and diversity, and bringing people together.
“Sport is one of the only things that breaks down those barriers.
“The fact as women in football we’ve been a marginalised group for a lot of years, I think it’s easier to relate to a struggle of some sort.
“I always vowed when I came to Chelsea that I’d be a force for good internally.
“And I’m so grateful from Roman Abramovich that he’s had the ambition not just to create world-class teams on the pitch, but more importantly that making sure we’re a club that plays a positive role in all the communities.”
Hayes has long sat on the board of the Chelsea Foundation, with the Blues having led the way in community support during the coronavirus pandemic.
The latest Say No To Anti-Semitism initiative is the 49 Flames art project created by Solomon Souza, a version of which will be displayed before Chelsea’s Premier League clash with Wolves at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
“When we visited Israel last year, it was so powerful to have the opportunity to bring together children from Israeli, Jewish, Palestinian and Arab backgrounds,” said Hayes.
“It’s so crucial that sport is a key driver to promote change, and to promote the right situations, especially to put children together.”
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