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CULTURE Arpad Weisz, the Soccer World Will Not Forget

Maglia-n.-18_Credits-Nicolò-PiuzziBy Daniel Reichel*

“Arpad Weisz – se il razzismo entra in campo (Arpad Weisz – if racism gets on to the pitch)” is the name of the exhibition at the Shoah Memorial in Milan dedicated to Arpad Weisz, a Hungarian Jew and a football major figure in the 1930s, who was murdered along with his family by the Nazis at Auschwitz in 1944. It features the journey through the sports and family history of the football coach who took Inter and Bologna to great accomplishments, whose identity and life were torn from him during the persecution of Jews.

The exhibition was curated by the Jewish Museum of Bologna in partnership with the Minerva Publishing House. It is both a tribute to Weisz and proof that sport can help remember the past, as stated by Roberto Jarach, president of the Shoah Memorial, during the opening.

The representatives of the sports associations where Weisz covered a leading role were also there, among which Giuseppe Marotta, Inter’s CEO Sport. “My participation in this opening ceremony reaffirms the partnership between Inter and the Shoah Memorial which started a long time ago. Having been in charge for two months, I can say that our goal is to foster memory, which is one of the core values of humanity. Since football is a true learning experience, I’ve always tried to pass on to our players the fundamental values in life. I’m now reaffirming our commitment, I’ll try my best”, said Marotta, along with Matteo Matteucci, the exhibition’s illustrator, whose illustrations are featured in his book “Weisz e il Littoriale” (Minerva, 2017).

Matteucci explained that he drew inspiration for his work from the book “From the Championship to Auschwitz. Life and death of Arpad Weisz, Jewish Coach” (Aliberti) written by Matteo Marani, deputy manager of Skysport. In this book he points out the important role the city of Milan had for Weisz. “When he first arrived in Milan, he was just a player of the Inter, then he came back years later as the coach of the team, which then won the championship. His children Roberto and Clara, which were killed at Auschwitz with him, were born in Milan. Their story ought to be remembered”.

“We have a lot to learn from Arpad Weisz. First and foremost, his determination and courage, in addition to the unbearable fragility of life when the hatred and the fear of the unknown take over. In our times, it is becoming essential to stand up against episodes of discrimination and racism, which sadly still take place on the football pitch. These are quite far from football’s spirit and core values, such as respect and collaboration”, Jarach underlined.

Jarach’s views were restated by Alberto Jona Falco, the exhibition’s project manager, and by Gianfelice Facchetti, playwright and director, who also mentioned Raffaele Jaffe in his speech. Just like Weisz, Jaffe has a connection to memory and football. His story is featured in “Presidenti” (Giuntina), a book by Adam Smulevich, where we learn that Casale Monferrato’s football team won the championship when Jaffe was their coach, right before the outbreak of World War I. Facchetti also announced having produced a theatrical performance on memory which will be staged at the end of March at the Shoah Memorial in Milan. The show will be targeted at youngsters from different sports associations.

Francesco Toldo, former captain of Inter and current project manager of “Inter Forever”, expressed his appreciation for the exhibition as well: “This exhibition wants to send a message to people in general, and also to Inter’s younger players. Inter wants to contribute by passing on the importance of learning from history and remembering mistakes made in the past in order not to repeat them. Our company managers are supporting it in order to remember past mistakes, so that football can be a way of sharing memories.”

“Memory has got an extraordinary power, since it paves the way for a better future. Keeping on emphasizing its importance, just like this wonderful exhibition on Arpad Weisz does, can show how sports, and football in particular, are a privileged way to introduce to young people the core values of our community”, affirmed Gabriele Gravina, the president of FIGC (Italian Football Federation), who was visiting the exhibition yesterday morning.

*Translated by Sara Facelli, with the help of Claudia Azzalini, students at the Advanced School for Interpreters and Translators of Trieste University and interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.