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New England Revolution Players and Staff Discuss Final Whistle On Hate, Chelsea

With the Final Whistle on Hate just days away, we went to Gillette Stadium to chat with the New England Revolution players and staff about the upcoming fixture and the message behind it.

Our opponents kindly shared their thoughts about Chelsea, as well as what it means to them to be participating in this important event.

We also caught up former Blue Michael Mancienne and heard from former USA international Charlie Davies about his thoughts on Christian Pulisic and what is was like facing an eighteen-year-old Eden Hazard.

On participating in the Final Whistle on Hate and playing an active role in combating anti-semitism and discrimination in all forms

Brian Bilello, Revolution club President had this to say: 

'In general, social issues are important things for clubs to get involved with and make a mark. There are really three things we think about when talking about any issue like that. Number one is our community – our community at large across New England. The folks that are in our community, how can we impact and help them, whether they’re fans or not? The second area is our fanbase – who are our fans and what are the motivations that are important to them? The third is our players.'

'I think when you talk about discrimination and issues relating to that, whether it be anti-semitism or racism, these are issues that impact our players, our fans and our community.'

'From owners, to executive leadership, to players, to staff, to coaches - this is an issue that impacts us all and we want to show that we’re all united in this cause and behind this initiative.'

'As a club, you always take it upon yourselves to think about what’s going on in the world, what are you seeing, and how can you help play a role to do something [about it]. Anti-semitism is something that is important to both our owner as well as Chelsea’s owner and when the tragedy happened in Pittsburgh, they got together to talk about whether there was something we could do.'

'There were two things that we thought about. Our first thought was awareness – we want to raise awareness and we want fans to understand that this is still an issue. Just by being a professional club, to have a match like this, and have the players and club leadership talk about anti-semitism and what’s going on in the world and why it’s important that we don’t just ignore this issue. You may not be someone who’s impacted by anti-semitism, but there are people who are and we need to understand that this is still an issue, and in some ways, might be an issue that is growing once again.'

'Our second thought was how we can we help? How can we help beyond raising awareness? When you look out into the community, there are a number of organizations that are focused on this area, and so what we want to is raise funding to really help those organisations further their work in combatting anti-semitism and combatting discrimination around the world. Each owner is donating $1 million to the cause and all the match proceeds are going to these organizations.'

Michael Mancienne, New England Revolution centre-back and Chelsea Young Player of the Year in 2008/09 had this to say:

'It’s a massive opportunity. As professional athletes, we’ve got a platform to take a stand, and the match is doing that by showing that we’re taking a stand against all forms of discrimination. It’s a positive thing and as professional athletes, we’ve got to set an example.'

'Football’s universal – we’ve got players here that don’t speak English, but when we’re on the football pitch, everyone understands what we need to do. Football is its own language and everyone in the world knows it, so we’ve got this great platform to take a stand for a great cause and that’s what we’re doing.'

Charlie Davies, Revolution club ambassador, also shared his thoughs on this important collaboration. Davies is one of the members of the Revolution organization who participated with Chelsea in the March of the Living on 2 May in Poland. Before going, Davies said, 'I‘m very excited about the opportunity to go there and learn. Of course, I know history and I know what happened in these concentration camps, but to see it first-hand and to hear some of the testimony from people who were there, or those who had relatives who were there, that will be extremely moving.'

'It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to go and feel like you’re really paying homage to the past and to the people who suffered and lost their lives there. It’s one of those things where I’m excited, but also nervous, because I feel like I’ll be overpowered with emotion.'

'Ever since I’ve gone through significant things in my life, I’ve been very emotional so I know that walking through Auschwitz, the tears will probably be flowing, but at the same time, I think it’s so important to go there and feel empowered and know that life has changed and humanity has made a lot of progress.'

'But there are occasional times where we see instances where people act hateful. I think it will be beneficial for me to go there and learn how hate can start and bring back with me everything I’ve learned and seen, so I can show people that we need to wake up and hold people who practice hate accountable.'

'Football is an inclusive sport. It involves every ethnicity and its about promoting equality – that’s one of the things that attracted me to the game. My first-ever game that I saw as kid was during the 1994 World Cup between Bolivia and South Korea. I remember that the Bolivian and South Korean fans were all celebrating together and the fans who weren’t from either country were almost as excited just to be at the World Cup. After seeing that passion, I thought this is the sport for me. That’s really where my dream began.'

'I think it’s great that footballers generally understand that the microscope is always on us, whether you’re a current player or a former player. A lot of people look up to us, so for us to go out there and show people ‘this is not okay,’ and ‘when you see hateful behavior, you need to report it and tell someone.’ We need to believe in what this game’s all about, accepting everyone for who they are. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you look like, everyone is in this game together.'

Antonio Delamea, Revolution centre-back, also shared his perspective:

'We’re all really pleased to be part of this match and promote this message, we’re really looking forward to it. Football is a universal language, it’s one of the things that really connects people from all different backgrounds to be as one.'

Matt Turner, Revolution goalkeeper, said:

'It’s a massive opportunity, we really want to use our platform to bring light to an issue that some people may not necessarily feel comfortable talking about. We can bring Chelsea, a team that’s really well known, a global brand, to Gillette Stadium and give our fans something to be excited for while also bringing light onto an issue that some people won’t acknowledge even actually exists. I’m so grateful to the game of soccer for being able to meet people from all over the world, like we have here in the locker room in New England. We’re all working together towards a common goal, learning about each other’s differences, and how we can motivate each other in different ways. The truly special thing about soccer is that you get so many different cultures coming together, trying to fight for one thing, and then you find common ground through that.'

Carles Gil, Revs attacking midfielder said, 'It is truthfully very beautiful for everyone to be supporting the cause for this match and it’s a great opportunity for everyone to get involved.'

On Facing Chelsea

As a footballer who came through Chelsea’s academy system and was named as the 2008/09 Young Player of the Year, we asked Michael to share his insights on what a friendly or pre-season match could mean for a young player and on making the decision whether to go on loan. 

'As a young player, whenever you get a chance, you’ve got to take it.  These matches can be an opportunity for them to showcase their abilities and talent. Any opportunity that you get, especially in pre-season, no matter how big or small the game is, you’ve got to take it seriously and perform to the best of your abilities. Especially as a young player, it’s important to be playing games. You need to be playing games, you can’t just sit there on the bench and let your talent waste away. If you have an opportunity to go on loan and be playing in games, you have to take that opportunity if you’re not getting regular first team football at your parent club. It’s important to be playing regularly so you can showcase what you can do.'

We also asked Michael about his fondest Chelsea memory. 'My Chelsea debut against Watford was a massive moment for me and a very proud moment for me.'

Like one of our new signings, Christian Pulisic, Davies also left the US to pursue a professional career in Europe at a young age, and he shared his thoughts on Pulisic and the pressure of being a young American footballer playing in Europe. 'In Christian Pulisic’s case, he’s been over at Dortmund for a long time. He’s had a lot pressure thrust upon him at Dortmund and he’s succeeded. He’s also had a lot of pressure in the US national team. We failed to make the World Cup and everyone is looking at Christian to lead us to the promised land and get us back to competing for a World Cup.'

'He’s used to the pressure now and I think going to Chelsea, the expectations are high, but expectations have always been high for Christian. What makes him so good is his ability to rise above the pressure. He wants it, he’s hungry, he’s determined, and he’s a good kid. There’s not too many kids who understand what it takes to be successful and will put in the work to get there, and he’s one of those kids. I think that his transition into the Chelsea team will be seamless. Of course, there will be some hiccups here and there, as there are with every player, that’s normal, but I think he has a lot to offer Chelsea and I do see him having a successful career there.'

Davies also has some unique insights on another Chelsea attacking player, Eden Hazard. They faced off against each other during 2009/10 Ligue 1 season when Davies was at Sochaux and Hazard was playing for Lille. 'It was my second month in France playing in Ligue 1. It was an incredible experience and heading into the games, I’m looking at players who are already established internationals or they’re the next big thing, and Hazard was definitely the next big star at the time. We played at Lille, he was on one wing and Gervinho was on the other. I was playing up top for Sochaux.'

'Just to see how dynamic Hazard was and his ability to take players on whenever he wanted, I knew he was special. We lost the match and I feel like I could have done better, but it was a great experience for me to go toe to toe with one of Europe’s best talents. He was already a special player then, and he’s one of the players I’ve followed ever since, because I could see his pace, his quickness, his ability to keep the ball stuck on his foot, similar to Messi. I’m really looking forward to seeing him at Gillette Stadium and catching up.'

Matt Turner also weighed in on this unique opportunity. 'It means a lot to us to have the opportunity to play against these guys. Any time you step on the field, you’re going to take it seriously. We wouldn’t be in this profession if we didn’t step out on the field every single day and not give it our all, so we’re going to take it seriously. We know there’s a bigger picture as well, given that it’s a charity match for a very specific cause, and so we want to bring light to that issue, especially leading up to the game. For the 90 minutes that we’re on the field, we’re going to show each other respect, but we’re going to go out there and try to give our fans something to be proud of.'

 

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