Representatives from Chelsea FC joined a delegation from New England Revolution, along with thousands of others from around the world, at the annual ‘March of the Living’ at former Nazi concentration camps in Poland on Thursday.
Chelsea became the first Premier League club to send a delegation to the March in 2018, and returned for this year’s walk from Auschwitz and Birkenau, which takes place on Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day and contrasts with the death marches so many suffered during World War Two.
The message there is that the March of the Living is a march of all humans, not only Jewish people, and it is clear it is an event with a large emphasis on youth and the passing on of history down the generations.
Taking part in events marking the March this year were Chelsea director Eugene Tenenbaum, CEO Guy Laurence, former manager Avram Grant and Olympic legend and Blues fan Sir Steve Redgrave. Participants from the Revolution include President Brian Bilello and club ambassador Charlie Davies.
Representing the younger generation were Academy players Armando Broja, Jordan Aina, Dynel Simeu, Sam McClelland, Jake Askew and George Nunn. Under-18s coach Andy Myers and assistant Jon Harley also joined the Chelsea contingent.
Former Blues defender Harley said: ‘The trip is about education and respect. The tour of Auschwitz was a difficult morning but so important to educate the young minds we have at the club on discrimination.
‘Education is key, not only for the players but also the staff and adults as the more you know about a subject the better you can conduct yourselves.
‘Personally, it has been a difficult trip. You think you know what to expect but seeing it in person is difficult to deal with even so long after the events of the Holocaust.’
Askew, a goalkeeper in our Academy, added: ‘It has been a difficult trip but is so important to come here and learn about the past.
‘When you are at school you learn about these things but being here puts it in perspective about how terrible it really is and I will go home to my friends and family and spread and promote the message that we need to stamp out antisemitism.’
The day began with a tour of the Auschwitz concentration camp, with insights into the harrowing progression of a former army barracks into a main location for the Nazis’ ‘final solution’ which resulted in the murdering of millions.
The March of the Living that followed was led by Holocaust survivors who were joined at the start by national presidents. The route was the two miles from the original Auschwitz I camp to Auschwitz II at Birkenau, the extermination camp that survives as a chilling reminder of where antisemitic behaviour can lead.
It was Chelsea CEO Guy Laurence who summed up how the March of the Living fits into the overall message of the club’s ongoing campaign. ‘It has been a very important trip on so many levels,’ he said. ‘For me personally it is the first time I have been to Auschwitz and for the club it is part of our ongoing Say No To Antisemitism campaign, and also a great partnership with New England Revolution who are here with us as well.
‘If you step back from football there is a lot of discrimination in the world and all of us have a responsibility to try and stop it. Some of the most powerful brands in the world are football clubs, so to come together and look at ways to raise awareness and educate people so that we can stamp this out is a very important part of what we do.
‘Education is a key part of what we have to do because of the brand of Chelsea and we are very fortunate to have an owner so willing to support and fund this work and it has enabled us to bring players and staff here but also put the message out worldwide to our fans.’