Roman Abramovich’s fight against antisemitism proves his continued commitment to Chelsea, according to ex-Blues boss Avram Grant.
Former Chelsea manager Grant will join a host of Chelsea representatives on the annual March Of The Living on May 2, walking across Nazi death camps to mark the Holocaust.
The 63-year-old Grant hailed Chelsea owner Abramovich for spearheading the Blues’ Say No to Antisemitism campaign, urging other top clubs to follow his lead.
Issues with Abramovich’s UK visa led to speculation he could sell Chelsea, but Grant believes the Russian’s work against racism underlines his desire to continue improving the Stamford Bridge club both on and off the field.
“I’m very proud, very proud that Chelsea and Roman Abramovich are heading this initiative to fight antisemitism,” Grant told Press Association Sport.
“Chelsea are doing a great job, they are the first team doing this and I hope other teams will join them.
“This is very, very important to Roman Abramovich. He has given a lot of effort, thought and money into things like this. He’s a guy who has positive values if I may say.
“Especially for me it’s symbolic that he and Chelsea are the first to take up this fight against antisemitism.
“I think it’s symbolic that a guy like him bought a club and built a brand of football, and now wants to plant the flag in the fight against antisemitism.
“To do the things that Roman Abramovich is doing, I think shows that he cares a lot.
“I think if you have good values it will help you more to win games, but this is my opinion. But the club is not just the players and the pitch, it’s supporters, staff, and a community too.
“It’s great that Roman Abramovich wants to help people change, change through football, and it shows how much he cares.”
Grant has walked the March Of The Living for the last 25 years, with Holocaust Memorial Day itself taking even greater significance for the Israeli coach during his Chelsea tenure.
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Chelsea’s 2008 Champions League semi-final second leg against Liverpool fell on Holocaust Memorial Day, on which no one in Israel would work.
Grant explained how he sought counsel from his father on whether to break the Israeli protocol – before guiding the Blues to their first Champions League final.
Grant’s father Meir Granat had buried almost his entire family as a result of the Holocaust, but never lost his fiercely positive outlook.
“The semi-final against Liverpool was so important, but the match was on Holocaust Day,” said Grant.
“In Israel nobody works, that day is very respected. So I didn’t know what to do.
“I asked my father whether I should coach, and he said ‘of course, I’m so proud that you will’.
“Some people in my country said I didn’t need to coach on that day. But he felt it very important that on that day specifically I try to bring happiness to people.
“He was so happy when we won that game, and he came to the final. For me, winning that match on Holocaust Day, that’s one of the biggest achievements in my life.
“My father is my hero. He passed away almost 10 years ago, and I miss him every day.
“He buried his father, his mother and his sister with his own hands. And even despite all this he was so optimistic.
“To educate people that they have a choice. My father had the right to be bitter, or to think about revenge, but he chose to be positive.
“He didn’t hate anybody. He didn’t even hate the Nazis that killed his family. So to fight against this through education, it’s very, very important.
“The connection between football and my father is that everybody can choose the way he can go; choose to go through hate, or go through love.”