New England, Chelsea join forces to fight discrimination via friendly match

BOSTON — New England Revolution defender Michael Mancienne says he has personally witnessed discrimination during his 13-year career as a black footballer, which began with his senior debut for English giants Chelsea FC in 2006.

On Wednesday, Mancienne will stand up with his current teammates and former club to face down hate and prejudice in all its forms through the lens of soccer.

The “Final Whistle on Hate” brings the Revolution and Chelsea together for a nationally televised charity match at Gillette Stadium (8 pm ET | FS1). All proceeds from the match go toward initiatives that combat antisemitism and hate crimes all over the world.

Behind the leadership of New England owner-operator Robert Kraft and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, 15 organizations will benefit from those proceeds, including the World Jewish Congress, the Tree of Life synagogue, the Anti-Defamation League, the Holocaust Educational Trust and Kick It Out. Additionally, Abramovich and Kraft will each donate $1 million.

“It’s important, this game, because we have a platform as professional athletes to show and take a stand against things like antisemitism and discrimination in the game,” Mancienne said.

Mancienne said the travel sacrifices Chelsea are making illustrate the importance of the cause. The London-based club are playing in the US only three days after wrapping up their domestic season in England last weekend, before briefly returning home and ultimately heading to Azerbaijan for the Europa League final against Arsenal on May 29.

“It shows how much they dedicate to this cause and to stand up against discrimination,” Mancienne said. “To come out and bring obviously the top players that have been playing all season, that are probably tired and could do with some rest before the final, it shows how important it is to see a team and have the owners and staff come out and participate in this game.”

Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta conceded that the club has been “quite busy in the last few weeks” but this “is a big event for everybody.”

“We keep fighting against antisemitism and against all forms of discrimination,” Azpilicueta said. “Chelsea is a club that is very active in all kinds of campaigns and we are very proud of what the club is doing. For us it is a big opportunity to keep doing the job we are doing in England but all over the world, and hopefully in terms of football we can see a good football game.”

Revolution midfielder Scott Caldwell said the match will be “a fun one to play” but that it also “means a lot” that Chelsea came to the United States and is united with New England for a “great cause” against discrimination, their common opponent. 

As for the match, players from both teams said that in addition to charity, it is part of their preparation for important upcoming matches. 

“This game is the last game before the (Europa League final) so we have to use it in the right way,” Azpilicueta said. “We are facing an opponent who is also involved in their league at the moment so hopefully we can do what we have been doing this season and hopefully improve the team with new members in the squad.”

With the Revs in the early throes of a coaching transition, Mancienne believes the friendly could be a good mental reset for the Revolution before their MLS tilt against the Montreal Impact on Saturday (1 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US, TVAS in Canada).

“There’s no real pressure on the result," Mancienne said, "so this is a chance to actually go out there and play freely and enjoy the game and obviously, test yourself against some of the best players in the world.”