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22 Nov, 2021 10:24

Roman Abramovich hosts Israeli president Herzog at Holocaust event at Chelsea

Roman Abramovich hosts Israeli president Herzog at Holocaust event at Chelsea

Chelsea chief Roman Abramovich has made a rare appearance in the UK, hosting Israeli president Isaac Herzog at an exhibition honoring athletes killed in the Holocaust.

Despite owning the Premier League leaders, Abramovich has not been seen in England since 2018 because of visa issues, although there had been rumors that he was about to make his long-awaited return to the country.

The Russian billionaire has now hosted Herzog at an exhibition, '49 Flames', which he funded at the club's Stamford Bridge home.

The Israeli government's press office issued a snap of Abramovich smiling and chatting to Herzog as they stood over the pitch at the west London stadium.

The event is said to have been 'small', attended by about 50 people in Abramovich's first appearance at the club since he withdrew his application for a British visa renewal.

Newly-elected president Herzog is one of the contributors to the display, which features a virtual exhibition and an installation as part of the club's 'Say No to Anti-semitism' campaign.

Former president Reuven Rivlin, Israeli politician and human rights activist Natan Sharansky and UK Government anti-semitism adviser Lord John Mann are among the other figures involved.

Holocaust survivor and champion weightlifter Sir Ben Helfgott, who is included in the exhibition, was also at the event alongside Abramovich and Herzog.

Abramovich commissioned Solomon Souza, an artist born in London before emigrating to Israel as a teenager, to create a piece commemorating athletes who died during the Holocaust.

Souza is known for creating depictions of Israeli and Arab personalities at the Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, and his piece for Abramovich was unveiled at Stamford Bridge on Holocaust Memorial Day 2020.

The photos of Abramovich have fueled talk that the 55-year-old could watch a game in person this week.

Chelsea begin a run of three matches in eight days when Italian giants Juventus visit Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Should they avoid defeat, the Blues will qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League and end Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg's hopes of reaching the latter stages.

Thomas Tuchel's side then host Manchester United on Sunday and are away to another London side, Watford, next Wednesday.

Since losing at Juve on September 29, Chelsea have gone nine games unbeaten in all competitions and are three points clear at the top of the table following their 3-0 win at Leicester on Saturday.

Their owner was last in the stands when Chelsea beat Manchester City in the 2021 Champions League final at the Estadio do Dragao in Porto in May.