Chelsea squad pay poignant visit to Holocaust memorial in Boston

From the chill of the Holocaust Memorial in the heart of Boston it was difficult to imagine anything further from a meaningless venture.
Eden Hazard
and David Luiz
stood and listened in a reverential hush like everyone else, spellbound by the stories passed down by the survivors of the Nazi death camps.
It mattered not that it was cold and drizzling and some had been smart enough to bring a waterproof jacket while others shivered in light training gear.
Nor did it seem important that there was no segregation from the Bostonian public, bustling towards the station in rush hour at the end of their working day, some pausing to shout 'Come on Chelsea' or reach for smartphones to record the occasion.
Aside from the hired vehicles with tinted windows there was no hint of VIP status; no velvet-rope treatment for the multi-millionaire sports stars from London.
And, although it might have been tense for the security team charged with keeping these valuable athletes safe from harm, this was what it was all about.
Reject discrimination. We are all the same.
The message was clear enough as Luiz, Hazard, their teammates and club officials including chairman Bruce Buck and the New England Revolution squad, accepted an invitation to walk the path through the centre of the memorial and reflect.
Six glass towers reached up to the sky to represent six million Jews killed. Each inscribed with the numbers branded on the skin of the prisoners.
Everywhere, details and short personal messages and stories from inside the camps, personalising the horror of murder in the name of discrimination.
It was not only Jews who were removed from society and sent to the camps.
So too were gypsies and homosexuals. Slavic races were considered by the Nazis to be sub-human.
Water vapour released from the base of each tower make it impossible to walk through without the shiver of how it might have felt to step into the gas chambers.
The hissing sounds crowded into your thoughts, smothered the mind and the mild claustrophobia made it difficult to think clearly or appreciate the words.
The memorial is an emotional force and Chelsea's determination to embark across the Atlantic Ocean at the end of a difficult season really ought to be applauded not ridiculed.
In the confines of football's bubble, it interferes with the preparation for a game which is a fortnight away and managers in their mode of self-survival condition us all to think that the player must be kept as far as possible from risk.
But sport really does reach where others cannot.
With tears in their eyes, those from Boston's Jewish community thanked the Chelsea players for taking the trouble to visit meant because with their sporting talent comes with a platform to reach others and extend the message.
By turning up and listening and thinking, they were making a difference, they were told.
Football has its faults but inside the dressing room, it can society through barriers and Luiz spoke with great eloquence on the subject.
'People discriminate because they think they are different,' said Luiz. 'This is the big fault in life. Nobody is different and football gives us the opportunity to show that.
'I am here today with people of many nationalities, different life stories, all working for the same cause, living the same day, breathing the same oxygen.
'God brings me from Brazil to be successful in England, an amazing country at an amazing club that makes many people happy around the world, also. How great is that?
'It's much better if we understand we are all the same. Football teaches a lot.'
Chelsea are in Boston for a game against the New England Revolution billed as the 'Final Whistle on Hate' with an aim to raise awareness and combat anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.
It is an idea devised by the clubs owners Roman Abramovich and Robert Kraft, and the billionaires will personally donate a million dollars each to the cause.
Not to mention the cost of jetting Chelsea around across the globe in a plush private jet and five-star accommodation.
'We are pleased to be in America,' said captain Cesar Azpilicueta. 'It has been a busy few weeks trying to get to the final of the Europa League and in the last few games in the Premier League trying to qualify for the Champions League but this is a big event for everybody.
'It is important that we keep fighting anti-Semitism and all discrimination and we are very proud of what the club is doing.'
Chelsea's entire 23-man travelling squad were on parade at the memorial on Tuesday. No-one shirked it and all were respectful.
It was a shame the manager could not join them.
Maurizio Sarri, having grumbled about the timing of the trip to the USA, was feeling under the weather after a couple of training sessions in the cold New England rain.
Many of his staff were absent too, perhaps absorbed in the task of beating Arsenal in the Europa League final in a fortnight's time.
Sarri, ultimately, will be judged on his ability to deliver major trophies. He will not keep his job based on his attendance rate at memorials around the world.
Still, there are times when it seems important to address some of the real problems in life.
Chelsea should be applauded for making the effort to make a difference. Not criticised for pursuing a pointless fixture.
There are plenty of those in football. This is not one of them.

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