Avram Grant right to put religion before football, say West Ham co-owners

Emotional journey: Avram Grant visits Auschwitz-Birkenau in May 200

West Ham co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan today both supported manager Avram Grant’s decision to miss Saturday’s match at Stoke because of religious reasons.

Saturday coincides with Yom Kippur and Israeli Grant has decided to observe the Jewish holy day by remaining at home.

West Ham’s Israel defender Tal Ben Haim, who played against Chelsea last weekend, will also miss the match as West Ham, bottom of the Premier League table, look for their first win of the season.

Sullivan said: “I fully respect people’s religious view, even though I realise it’s not ideal for the team.

“We want him to be there, he would really like to be there but he is prevented by his religious beliefs and we all respect that.

“Personally, I believe in Karma so maybe we’ll win on Saturday or, if not, then very soon as we need some help from above at this moment in time.

“I pray the night before every match for victory and I hope my prayers are answered very soon.

“If I thought it would help, I’d take charge of the team myself but we’d probably lose 6-0.”

Sullivan revealed last season that he was a believer in Karma, following Eidur Gudjohnsen’s decision to sign for Tottenham on loan after verbally agreeing a deal with West Ham. The Icelandic striker is now at Stoke after joining them in the transfer window.

Sullivan’s co-chairman, Gold, who has Jewish ancestry, also said he respected Grant’s decision. He added: “It is difficult to stand in the way of religious conviction.

“Religion is a very personal thing and, much as I would like Avram to be at every game for us, I would respect his decision.

“It’s like a player who wants to miss a game to be at the birth of his child — no matter how much his team-mates might need him on the pitch, it’s hard to stand in his way of something which is so important in his personal life,” he said.

Gold said that if his grandparents were still alive, they would not have gone to a game on Yom Kippur. He added: “Personally, I believe it is possible to fulfill both your religious obligations and your work obligations but it’s not so easy to do both if you are absolutely devout.”

It is understood that Grant, who lost family members during the holocaust, thought long and hard about the decision to miss Saturday’s game against a team who also find themselves at the wrong end of the Premier League table.

Both he and Ben Haim, both of whom are high-profile figures in Israel, would have been roundly condemned in their home country had they not chosen to observe the Jewish holy day.

Yom Kippur is the Jewish Day of Atonement and begins at sundown on Friday. It is commemorated by a 25-hour period of fasting, praying and even secular Jews will not work on the day, attending synagogues instead to pray for repentance.

Serbian Zeljko Petrovic, West Ham’s assistant manager, will deputise for Grant at the Britannia Stadium, while it is expected that first-team coach Paul Groves will handle the media.

Ken Dyer

Evening Standard | 16th September 2010