By Ana Braccialli
European soccer is the most beautiful soccer you will ever watch. The skills with the ball, all the best players in the world in only one place and the passionate fans cheering for their teams are just a few things of what European soccer can offer. However, even though it can bring the best of soccer, it can also bring the worst.
English Premier League club Chelsea is trying to approach a new way to decrease anti-semitism from fans during the matches. The club plans to offer two options for racist fans: they can either be banned from the stadium and losing their season tickets or they can visit the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz as part of an educational course.
According to Washington Post, Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck, said, “If you just ban people, you will never change their behavior. This policy gives them the chance to realize what they have done, to make them want to behave better.”
Even though club officials repeatedly said that this new change is about the rise of anti-Semitism globally, Chelsea has being facing criticism for discriminatory chants by fans. Tottenham Hotspur, their biggest rival, is a club with a big Jewish fanbase. Because of that, they are Chelsea fan’s main target of their racists chants.
“It is hard to act when a group of 50 or 100 people are chanting. That’s virtually impossible to deal with or try to drag them out of the stadium. But if we have individuals that we can identify, we can act,” said Buck, to The Guardian.
Chelsea has sent a delegation to Auschwitz for the annual March of the Living—an educational program which brings students from all around the world to Poland, where they explore the remnants of the Holocaust.
The Chelsea Supporters’ Trust, a non-profit membership open to all Chelsea supporters worldwide, is in favor of the new plan, while the Football Supporters Federation also showed their support.
According to The Guardian, Anwar Uddin, the campaigns and diversity manager, said, “The FSF have long advocated and promoted educational sessions with supporters found to have used discriminatory language. We completely agree with Bruce Buck that simply banning people doesn’t change behaviour or attitudes and applaud Chelsea for being one of the first Premier League clubs to so publicly advocate this approach and hope others follow their example.”
Besides the planned visits to the concentration camps, the club will be also holding workshops and movie screenings at schools and during fan forums. A hotline has been set up where fans can report any type of discriminatory incidents.
“We’re not naive to think that our little program is going to solve anti-Semitism, but we are hopeful that if we do something and it’s just a little bit successful, then other sports clubs and other institutions like ours will also pick up the cudgel and engage in similar activities,” Buck said to Washington Post.
Ana Braccialli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org