NEW YORK / TEL AVIV - The World Jewish Congress and Chelsea Football Club (Chelsea FC) on Thursday held the final competition in the US and Israeli portions of a global campaign to combat widespread racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia in sports. The Pitch for Hope competition called on young people ages 18-30 in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel to propose creative ideas for an initiative to harness the spirit of comradery in sports and build bridges between people of all backgrounds, faiths and walks of life.
Seren Fryatt of Washington D.C. and Alyssa Chassman of London were named as the winning team in New York, securing a $10,000 grant from Chelsea FC and WJC to turn their idea for a virtual 48-hour hackathon of ideas, called Unite 2030 -- 20 multicultural teams developing what it means to promote inclusion in sports -- into reality. "We learn from history, and what we have learned is that powerful social shifts have been powered by grassroots efforts, by people standing up, being innovative and creative, creating disruptive solutions ... we need to inspire the next generation of leaders ... when we empower young leaders, we empower the world," they said.
In Tel Aviv, Idan Amos, Michael Shapira, and Raveh Shahar Tirosh, students at the Benjamin Rothman Emek Yaffe High School in the Gilboa Valley of Israel took the top prize for their idea to create a line of shirts and scarves for soccer fans, displaying the logos and symbols of opposing teams on a single item of clothing, in order to draw rivals together in a spirit of comradery.
The winners were among 5-6 finalists chosen in each country from among dozens of applicants, with another five awaiting the UK final competition and prize on October 17. The winners from each country will present their projects at Stamford Bridge in London on October 18, and will attend the Chelsea vs. Manchester United game on October 20.
World Jewish Congress CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer said: “The fight against racism, xenophobia, and antisemitism in sports is only just beginning, and the road ahead is still long and challenging. We are proud and honored to be teaming up with Chelsea Football Club to effect real change in this arena, but we know that we need the energy, ambition, and vision of young people to really make a difference. We wish the winners the best of luck in their endeavors, and will be with you all along the way to help you turn our collective dream, a sports world free of hate, into reality.”
In New York, the finalists presented their ideas to a panel of esteemed judges, including Chief Marketing Officer of Up2Us sports Mario Argote, NYU Tisch Institute of Global Sport Professor Lee Igel, Associate Director of Operations at WNBA Players Association Michael Goldsholl, and WJC North America Executive Director Betty Ehrenberg. The second and third place prize, of $5,000 each, went to Sebastian Diaz for his idea of an exchange game for refugees and migrants, and Qiana Martin, who proposed bringing cultural activities to soccer fans.
In Tel Aviv, the finalists presented their proposals to a panel of judges composed of former basketball player Tal Brody, Olympic judoka Yarden Gerbi, renowned publicist Rani Rahav, and Israel Museum CEO Ido Bruno. The second and third place in the competition went to students from Bezalel and Shenkar art schools; each were granted 20,000 NIS ($5,000) for their ideas.
The competition is part of the three-pronged Red Card for Hate initiative, launched by WJC and Chelsea this past April, which will continue in the next stage with a video series, and culminate next spring in Paris with a global summit of ministers and sporting officials from around the world.
Chelsea FC is one of the world’s leading soccer teams, playing in England’s Premier League and the European Championships. The WJC is the Jewish community’s global representative to governments and international organizations, representing communities in more than 100 countries.
This initiative was made possible due to a generous contribution from Chelsea FC Club owner Roman Abramovich and World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder.
Soccer, especially in Europe, has been plagued by instances of anti-Semitism and racism for years. Fans have led anti-Semitic chants, including making hissing noises to evoke the Nazi gas chambers, and targeted African and black players with monkey sounds, among other things. Ultra-nationalists and neo-Nazis have also played roles in supporter groups for various teams.