Building bridges through sport

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More than once I have met people who are surprised by the interest that the Simon Wiesenthal Center has shown in working in the field of sport.

We understand that it is a environment where there is much to work on and at the same time a favorable space to transmit the values ​​of coexistence in diversity and fight against discrimination.

Perhaps you did not know, dear reader, but the global measure that imposes on referees to suspend sporting events when xenophobic, racist or discriminatory chants are heard in the stadium was born almost 20 years ago as a proposal from our institution to the Argentine Football Association (AFA) in response to the repeated anti-Semitic demonstrations of the Chacarita club against Atlanta (identified with the Jewish community for belonging to the Villa Crespo neighborhood, where this community settled at the beginning of the 20th century)

The AFA took this measure to FIFA and from there it went global.

Together with our European office, which has also followed a similar path, we have developed specific proposals so that Sport continues to create bridges that unite.

We have prepared an 11-Point Program against Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia in Sport, which has received the auspices of the Organization of American States, the unanimous support of the 23 congresses represented in the Latin American Parliament (PARLATINO) and was declared “Of interest for the promotion and defense of Human Rights” by the Legislature of the City of Buenos Aires when that city hosted the Youth Olympic Games in 2018.

The support of the Organization of American States was given during the 2017 General Assembly, held in Cancun, while Mexico and Chile participated at the Confederations Cup in Russia, under warnings of harsh sanctions by FIFA for reprehensible behavior. Mexico for generalizing the so-called “Homophobic Cry” and Chile for whistling the anthems of the adversary countries. Each and every one of the television programs in Mexico, except soap operas, discussed whether yelling at goalkeepers with a homosexual synonym if they cleared the ball was subject to sanctions. At that time, our friends from “Diario Judío” managed an interview on Public TV where we affirmed that it was and we were able to substantiate it. The next day, that interview was known by everyone in Mexico and even enabled us to be speakers at a day against discrimination in soccer in 2018.

We repeatedly support the imposition of sanctions on the Palestinian Football Club for the well-known uses of its jersey and other maneuvers to mix the political message with sport, a fact condemned by FIFA.

In fact, we managed to have the President of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub, sanctioned by FIFA for inciting violence, which was already the subject of a piece last year.

In July 2021, the Professional Football League (LPF) -affiliated to the Argentine Football Association (AFA)- which brings together the first division clubs and manages their championships, stated, “Among the greatest scourges that threaten the social coexistence in the world are racism, anti-Semitism, discrimination and hatred”.

Based on this premise, the LPF issued a statement inviting its member clubs to individually declare their adoption of the IHRA Definition on anti-Semitism “as a way to educate, raise awareness and promote the values ​​of coexistence in diversity.”

LPF also invited its members to organize joint activities with the Simon Wiesenthal Center for this purpose. Among them, it was proposed to create the “Simon Wiesenthal Prize”. This would be awarded at the end of each LPF championship to the coaching staff, team or player that contributed the most to promoting the values ​​described above.

Last December, on the eve of the last game of the championship, the LPF and the Center delivered the “Simon Wiesenthal Award” at the stadium to Club Talleres, from the City of Córdoba, Argentina, which not only immediately adopted the definition, but also it also showed a strong commitment to the values ​​that this award embodies.

Our next step: work with football clubs so that they not only adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, but determine that when tickets are sold for the whole year, their members commit not to participate in racist, xenophobic, discriminatory actions or anti-Semites. If they do not comply, they accept that the right to go to the stadium will be taken away until the end of the season.

Our desire to do things is always looking for new clubs and associations that want to join.

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