After a year of race rows plaguing English football, it was fitting that Roy Hodgson this week collected the inaugural Yad Vashem UK award for Contribution to Racial Understanding in 2012.
With chairman David Bernstein in Israel, Mr Hodgson received the accolade on behalf of the FA and England Men’s Football Team following their visit to the concentration camp in Auschwitz prior to the European Championships earlier this year.
“It was a no-brainer to be helpful to an organisation such as Yad Vashem,” said Mr Hodgson.
“It’s an honour to receive such a prestigious award from the hand of Ben Helfgott MBE, an Auschwitz survivor, who has been through so much. I am humbled to accept this award.”
Recalling the visit in June, Mr Hodgson said: “It was a very harrowing experience. At the time, it was very difficult to say what you felt about it. It was a surreal day – you can’t get something more surreal than Auschwitz in glorious sunshine.
Organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust, the visit saw an FA delegation, which included England players, visit the Schindler Factory.
“I was lucky as my generation came away with quite a good history so I went armed with good knowledge. The players came away humbled from the experience and educated.”
Mr Hodgson said: “One of my fears before the tournament was that such an experience could detract from the main reason for the visit, but it didn’t in any way.
“We can’t deny the fact that footballers today have a very big influence on young players’ lives and if they can talk about their experiences of Holocaust education then I will be very happy.”
The FA will soon release a DVD of the visit which will be used as an educational tool.
Yad Vashem UK chairman Simon Bentley said: “The English, Dutch and Italian football teams made harrowing and emotional trips to Auschwitz and learnt first hand about the dangers of racism and prejudice.
“This is an example that hopefully will be followed by their millions of supporters.”