LONDON (AP) – Chelsea boss Roman Abramovich hosted Israeli President Isaac Herzog at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as part of the Premier League club’s campaign against anti-Semitism.
The small event, which was attended by around 50 people, saw Abramovich at Chelsea’s stadium for the first time since 2018, when he withdrew his application for a British visa renewal.
The Russian-Israeli businessman traveled to London as an Israeli citizen and spent nearly two hours at the Imperial War Museum London on Sunday morning, where he helped fund Holocaust gallery viewings with donations.
Abramovich is funding the “Say No to Antisemitism” initiative advanced by the club to address concerns about hatred towards the Jewish people. Addressing spectators in a suite at Chelsea’s stadium at the start of his visit to London, Herzog highlighted concerns about discrimination in the sport.
“The culture and politics of the sport sometimes bring out the worst in humanity,” Herzog said, “as we have repeatedly encountered hostile, racist and violent incidents inside and outside the stadium and against athletes refusing to compete. or shake hands with their Israeli counterparts.”
The afternoon tea event also celebrated Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott, who went on to compete in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics for Britain in weightlifting and turns 92 on Monday. Chelsea president Bruce Buck highlighted the club’s “49 Flames” initiative, which refers to the number of Olympic medalists killed during the Holocaust.
Abramovich is expected to attend Chelsea’s Champions League match against Juventus on Tuesday. He has not been seen in home games since British visa complications surfaced in 2018. A visa renewal application was taking longer than usual to complete and was withdrawn.
It comes at a time when Britain vowed to review the long-term visas of wealthy Russians after Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in the English city of Salisbury. Britain blames Russia for the pair’s exposure to a nerve agent, a charge Moscow strongly denies, and Abramovich is not linked to.
Abramovich has since featured in Chelsea games overseas, including in their Champions League final win over Manchester City in the Portuguese city of Porto in May. He also went to Boston in 2019 to show Chelsea a friendly game against the New England Revolution, to raise funds for the campaign against anti-Semitism.
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