GENEVA – Top officials and representatives of leading European football organizations today grappled with the power of sport to counter antisemitism, at a World Jewish Congress forum held on the sidelines of a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva and timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
The forum, “Combating Antisemitism in and through Sports,” also marked the launch of a long-term WJC initiative “Combating Antisemitism in Sport,” which establishes antisemitism as an independent field of action in anti-discrimination work in sport, at both amateur and professional levels.
At Wednesday’s event, speakers from the European Commission, UN Human Rights Council, UNESCO and the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA); UK Government Adviser on Antisemitism Lord John Mann; and representatives from a number of leading clubs, including Chelsea FC, Borussia Dortmund, Feyenoord Rotterdam and Aris FC, reflected on the history of anti-hate initiatives in sport and discussed the value of partnerships among clubs, leagues, governments and the World Jewish Congress to fight hatred, in all its forms.
Margaritis Schinas, the European Commission’s Vice President for Promoting our European Way of Life, said, “Today’s discussion and [WJC’s] initiative for a new center for combating antisemitism in sport and society could not be more timely. Antisemitism is unfortunately on the rise again across Europe, and football is not immune to this phenomenon.”
Theodore Theodoridis, UEFA Secretary General, said, “Our door is open. I came here to make this very clear: Use us and we will help you get an education and raise awareness in activities moving forward.”
Following their recent joint commemoration of Julius Hirsch, a former German-national team player murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Borussia Dortmund’s Daniel Loercher and Simon Taylor, Director of the Chelsea Foundation, presented how their respective clubs have engaged their local Jewish communities and educated fans about the dangers of hate.
Irini Karipidis, President of the Greek club Aris FC, from Thessaloniki, explained the club’s support of the development of the city’s Holocaust Museum.
Steven Burger of Feyenoord Rotterdam shared how his club works across diverse Dutch fan groups to bringing supporters to memorial sites to raise awareness about the impact of antisemitism.
The forum was organized with the support of the UN missions of Argentina, Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, the European Union and UNESCO.
WJC, which actively partners with international football clubs, has leveraged sport as a critical platform for addressing address racism, discrimination and antisemitism across society.
The new WJC initiative will track activities and centralize existing knowledge, while serving as an advisory body for stakeholders both inside and outside of sport, including those in political life, associations, Jewish communities and organizations and academia. Potential partners will also be trained in capacity building, and a funding program will enable stakeholders to implement their own projects.
“Combating Antisemitism in Sport” is a collaboration between WJC and WhatMatters, a German-based NGO.
Speaking on behalf of the new initiative, Dr. Andreas Kahrs said, “Under our umbrella, we will work through three pillars: fighting antisemitism, remembering the Holocaust and highlighting the legacy of Jewish athletes along with their contribution to sport.” He added, “We will also need your help. We need the commitment of partners and organizations to develop and progress new projects.”
- Margaritis Schinas, Vice President for Promoting our European Way of Life, European Commission
- Nada Al-Nashif, Deputy High Commissioner, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Theodore Theodoridis, Secretary General, Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)
- Lord John Mann, Adviser on Antisemitism, Government of the United Kingdom
- Ana Luiza Thompson-Flores, Director of Geneva Office, UNESCO
Presenters on Good Practices:
- Daniel Lörcher, Borussia Dortmund
- Irini Karipidis, Aris F.C.
- Simon Taylor, Chelsea Foundation
- Steven Burger, Feyenoord Rotterdam
- Dr. Andreas Kahrs, Combating Antisemitism in Sports
The event was moderated by Leon Saltiel, Director of Diplomacy, Representative to the UN in Geneva and UNESCO, and Coordinator on Countering Antisemitism for the World Jewish Congress.
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