Anti-Semitism in football

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As Peter Watts considers the complexities of fans using the word ’Yid‘ at Spurs games, he worries that the Carling Cup final could resemble the bad old days of the ‘80s

  • Anti-Semitism in football

    Where does name-calling end and anti-Semitism begin?

  • I’d been calling Spurs ‘the Yids’ for a couple of years before my dad told me it was racist. ‘Don’t you realise it’s an abusive term for someone who is Jewish?’ he said. I didn’t, nor had I worked it out from one of my favourite Chelsea chants: ‘He’s only a poor little Yiddo/He stands at the back of the Shelf/He goes to the bar/To buy a lager/And only buys one for himself’. Racial stereotypes were clearly not one of my strong points as a 13-year-old.

    I’d like to say that I immediately stopped using the word, but I didn’t. Chelsea fans – like those at Arsenal and West Ham – had been calling Tottenham ‘Yids’ for decades. Given that Spurs devotees called themselves the ‘Yid Army’ I didn’t see how it caused any harm. I’ve since ceased, but at the Carling Cup final on February 24 cries of ’Yiddo’ will ring round Wembley – and they’re as likely to come from the Spurs end as the Chelsea one. Is anti-Semitism, the oldest hate, prospering in football or is this just a near-the-knuckle nickname for a rival football club?

    Many supporters are convinced it’s the latter. David Baddiel, a Jewish Chelsea fan, wrote in 2002: ‘I told myself that it didn’t matter, that for most of these fans, “Yiddo” simply meant a Tottenham player or fan and that the negativity was about that and not about race.’ However, when Chelsea fans aimed the chant at non-Tottenham Israeli players, Baddiel ‘realised I was in denial: “Yiddo” may mean Tottenham fan but it also means Jew.’ Baddiel may be interested to know that my own eureka moment involved him. When he was spotted during a game in the mid-1990s and half the West Stand broke into a chorus of ‘Yiddo, yiddo!’, Baddiel smiled it off – but the penny finally dropped that this was racist abuse, pure and simple.

    It used to be worse. In the 1980s chants about Auschwitz and hissing to imitate the release of gas were common, but I haven’t heard either in nearly 20 years of attending Chelsea-Spurs fixtures. Jeremy Vine, a Times journalist and another Jewish Chelsea fan, agrees: ‘I’m sure I would notice hissing as it would most likely come from the Matthew Harding Stand, where I sit.’ However, a lot of old faces will be on display at Wembley and the atmosphere could get ’80s ugly. Even if it doesn’t, the existing abuse is bad enough.

    Vine, who briefly stopped attending games in the 1980s due to racism, says: ‘Without doubt some of those who chant “Yid” are anti-Semites at heart… but I don’t believe all are.’ The problem, Vine feels, is that ‘personal jibes are part of the language of the terraces. Anything goes. And so the boundaries of decency and offensiveness become blurred.’

    What muddies the water further is that, since the 1970s, Spurs fans have proudly reclaimed what was originally coined as a term of abuse (nobody knows why, Tottenham being no more ‘Jewish’ than Arsenal or Chelsea) and now call themselves the ‘Yid Army’. Chelsea chairman Ken Bates, always torn between defending Chelsea supporters while confronting their excesses, argued that, ‘It is hard to criticise Chelsea fans for calling Tottenham supporters something that they call themselves.’

    Spurs conducted a ‘full consultation exercise’ over the use of ‘Yid Army’ because of fears it led to ‘casual anti-Semitism’, but this was criticised by many of their own supporters who felt the chant united both Jewish and non-Jewish Tottenham fans against their abusers. ‘If you are Tottenham, you are a Yid,’ is the argument. Many agree there’s a distinction between chanting ‘Yiddo’ and singing about concentration camps, which is broadly true – unless you’re racist.

    Simon Greenberg, Chelsea’s director of communications, disagrees and has denounced the Bates defence, leading to the curious situation where Chelsea – who now have a Jewish owner and manager – are promising to take a harder line on anti-Semitism than conflicted Tottenham. ‘We have a policy of zero tolerance,’ says Greenberg. ‘There is no justification in our eyes and we’re not going to get into a philosophical debate about it.’ The club strongly denounced the anti-Semitic hate mail they received after Avram Grant’s appointment as manager.

    Fine words, though if zero tolerance is applied at Wembley next week both ends will be half-empty before kick-off. Nevertheless, Vine insists: ‘There is no comparison to be made between three decades ago and now. It’s not perfect. I stayed away from the ground once before because of the people it attracted. The difference now is that these people are an extremely small minority. I don’t like it but I accept it as a reality. And it is slowly improving.’ That said, as anybody who watches the Carling Cup final will discover, there is still a very long way to go.

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21 comments
Fatima
Fatima

Hello, my name is Fatima. I am emailing you because I am interested in what you do. The aim of my campaign is to raise awareness on Racism in Sport. My views on Issues related to race and sports have been examined by scholars for a long time. Among these issues are racial discrimination in sports as well as the observation that there are overrepresentations and underrepresentations of different races in different sports. Please could you send me any sort of Leaflets, posters or any other sort of material that i could use. Thank you.

SpurredoninDublin
SpurredoninDublin

Leroy: Your rant has to be one of the most deluded I have ever seen. Do you think that Spurs have any control over who sells what outside their ground. More to the point, the BNP have always had a history of being provocative, and deliberately target areas where there are large immigrant communities liviing alongside whites. That's why they organidse marches in Lewisham, Brixton and have a large presence at Club Row on sundays. Harringay has one of the highest proportion of immigrants in Britain. That is why the BNP target WHL. Your suggestion that Spurs arec a racist club holds as much water as the suggestion that Arsenal haven't won a trophy for five years because it has so many black supporters, and this is hodden racism by the FA. Incidentally, when I first started watching Spurs at the age of 10, my father wouldn't let me go to the match unless I went with a neighbour, who happened to be an immigrant from Trinidad named Clem. To be honest, I can't claim I saw that many black people there, especially as most West Indian first generation immigrants were more interested in cricket than football, but I also can't claim that I ever heard him being racially abused. Just one other point, Spurs were the first London team to have a black player: about 60 years before Arsenal ever did. Does that make Arsenal racist?

Leroy B
Leroy B

I have not seen the BNP sell their crap at Chelsea for many years, probably since the early 1990`s yet 2010 WHL they do. Some coincidence don't you think? West Ham and Arsenal have always exepted different races into the ranks, aslong as their colour is Claret and Blue/ red and White. Spurs should be greatful for their jewish rep, if you didn't have it youd be known as an extremist nazi club like CFC or Leeds. Do any of you Spurs remember reaching as high as 4th in Bulldogs racist league?? Falling behind Chelsea, Leeds, Rangers. Tottenham H are so behind the times ! FFS you still have a active hooligan crew, one of the biggest in the UK, isn't it time to grow up a bit? We ended are hooligan crap in the 1980`s ! Spurs are just as thuggish as West Ham, Millwall, Chelsea, Leeds etc... When we won 4-1 did you see any Gooners causing riots?? I don't think so!! When the scum beat us 3-2 your thugs were punching innocent Gooners and even smashed one of our pub windows, and that is when you win, call yourself fans?? THFC = ANIMALS AFC = HUMANS Grow up you scum!

SpurredoninDublin
SpurredoninDublin

In response to Leroy Barwuah, I do not see that his argument that Spurs are racist because the NF/BNP sell their crap outside WHL is a sophisticated argument. It's like saying the Salvation Army are in favour of alcohol because their activists sell "War Cry in pubs. The reality is that Spurs are no more or less racist than any other club. The "Kick Racism Out" campaign didn't convert us all to the wonders of a multi-cultural Britain. It just made us aware that if you were caught racially abusing someone at a football ground, you could face severe penalties. I have met BNP supporters that regularly attend West Hame, Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea as supporters. If Leroy is trying to claim that once you become an Arsenal fan, you lose all racist inclinations, then I have to think that he is seriously deluded. Support of a football team does not cure racism, or fuel it, it is education and experience that doies that.

leroy barwuah
leroy barwuah

these comments are utter nonsence. Spurs are just as racist as chelsea, the amount of anti-black abuse against us gooners is unreal (due to arsenals large negro support), and unlike the anti-jewish abuse they used to get we still get anti-black abuse from them as if it was 1970! I remember the the national front selling papers around whl because of this! The bnp still do. I saw them there whem we beat them 4-1 carling cup outside the spurs shop. Just because the nf/bnp are racist, doesn't make them anti-jewish. In 1979 ge, the nf fielded 2 orthodox jewish candidates and the bnp have a jewish cllr. Afc uaf anti-spurs anti-racist and anti-nf.

SpurredoninDublin
SpurredoninDublin

As a Spurs fan for the best part of 50 years, I seem to be in the minority, and am very uncomfortable with the use of this word. It is something that started in the 1980's and as nobody can seem to identify it's origins, I will take a punt, and suggest it is because of our proximity to Stamford Hill which has a large Jewish population. Amongst my criticisms is the crassness of Ken Bates, who sees it hard to criticise the use of the word, because some Spurs fans use the term for themselves. This is the same as saying you can call a black man a "nigger", because he uses the term himself. Personally, I long for the days when football was about rivalries rather than hatred. When the "Kick racism out of fooitball" campiagn was in full swing, I wanted it to be the "Kick hatred out of football" campaign. When I was younger, I had no recollection of hatred between Spurs and ony other team, only banter and rivalry. It has now reached the sorry state, where a teams loss turns some supporters into emotional cripples, especially those teams that have enjoyed recent success, and who belive it is their god given right to win everything. When the gods let them down, being the emotional cripples that they are they hit out, and "Yid" is then a term of hatred rather than unity.

Bill a yid
Bill a yid

all football banter stems from negative and positive identities in football history etc...........so?........ great that it is football culture has always had its anti songs etc which in turn get turns into a positive....... its part of human nature rightly or wrongly ..... it seems in our political correct world mind control and pointing by association with guilty meanings such as yids..jewish etc interferes with freedoms of identity etc and borders as a form of pathetic institutionalized social models which ignore reality.......of everyday identity over many years etc political correctness is actually be mainly self defeating..........by being bizare in its analysis......as it ignores in its conclusions.... many aspects as a teenager in north london in the 70,s all my different friends at school of different race ,greek,jamaican,italian etc ......etc never thought it into creating division.s etc.....it only seems the college plonkers were the only ones who have tried to socially engineer reality......as this article indicates..... a sense of humour is the most important thing throughout if everything sung at games was unacceptable in football life would be extremely dull so as far as any gooners out there i am a proud yiddo!.

desispur
desispur

I'm a big time spur fan and have often referred to my self as a yid and my team with Yid army b4 u ask Im a British born Indian and have no Jewish family history Until recently I did not know the word yids as a racial slur I live in Stamford hill and I can defo say that the kids around here would use the word yids as a reference to spurs fans and not as a way to abuse Jewish people now the question is that we are aware of it's racial context and can we go on using it as spurs fans on a linked matter the word anti Semitism why is that used for racism against Jewish people yet when some one is racist again a non Jewish person it just plain and simple racism ?

jc
jc

The comment that its difficult to criticise opposing fans for calling them "yids" when they refer to themselves in the same way is clearly rubbish. It is a classic example of appropriating an offensive word that could be used against you in order to show solidarity. If you disagree then good luck to you, I assume you would be comfortable yelling "queer" at a gay man, or "n*****" at a man of african descent (as many members of each community would be happy to refer to within each community)....

Jez
Jez

Utter nonsense. I'm nowhere near Jewish, but nothing get te fans at White Hart Lane going like a good hearty "YID ARRRRMYYYYY" bellow as I walk up the East Stand steps. It's not a racist chant and as far back as my 35 years will allow me to recall, has never been.

Lawrie
Lawrie

I am not Jewish but always join in the "Yids" chant at WHL. Personally, I always find it really uplifting that the local Jews and the rest of us are united in supporting Tottenham and I feel like an honorary Jew for the evening. If other clubs think they're insulting us by calling is Yids then I think they miss the target. If it was an England-France match, for instance, would the French players and supporters feel insulted if we chanted "Frenchies"?

harry hunt
harry hunt

i have heard hissing recently, at stoke away last season they started doing it after the game as we were leaving the stadium, at arsenal they also do it. it is not a thing of the past, it still happens.

Spursphan
Spursphan

we can't argue that racism is still very rife amongst a few, however i think often this term 'yid' is used by other fans without them knowing the history or significance of it. When someone shouts racist abuse at Mido and calling his mother a terrorist purely of being arab decent that too is anti-sentimitic. There is an increase of hate crimes throughout england not only in football but generally and to be honest it appears to be directed at Muslims more so than any other. The worrying this is, it appears to be accepted when a Muslim is abused whether in the papers or on the streets.

Erin Faherty
Erin Faherty

The term Yid when being used by Tottenham fans make me smile with pride that a group of people stood up to the racist bigotry of other London clubs by uniting as one. One could argue that if the other London clubs with an equally big Jewish following stood up in the same way that Tottenham did that maybe anti Semitism would have been eradicated from the game by now. I am a Yid and proud, my fellow yid can be Asian, black, Jewish, Muslim, Gay…….

Doglegz
Doglegz

THE WORD 'YID' IS USED IN A TOTALLY DIFFERENT CONTEXT WHEN USED BY EITHER SPURS OR CHELSEA / WEST HAM ETC. FOR SPURS IT IS 3 THINGS. 1. THE NAME OF OUR FIRM. 2. A REFERENCE TO PLAYERS AND FANS. (BOTH 1 & 2 HAVE NO JEWISH CONNOTATIONS INVOLVED). 3. A FRIENDLY OPEN ARM TO JEWISH PEOPLE. 3 IS PARTICULARY IMPORTANT WHEN CONSIDERING WHY OTHER CLUBS USE THE WORD 'YID'. AND THERE USE IS DONE IN A COMPLETELY RACIST MANNER. THESE PEOPLE HATE JEWS AND HATE TOTTENHAM BECAUSE THEY THINK TOTTENHAM ARE JEWS, BUT POINTS 1 & 2 SHOW TOTTENHAM AND JEWS ARE UNRELATED. THERE ACTIONS HIGHLIGHT THERE IGNORANCE IN THINKING TOTTENHAM ARE JEWS AND THERE WICKEDNESS IN HATING JEWS - WHATS IRONIC IS %99 OF THESE PEOPLE DONT EVEN KNOW WHY THEY HATE JEWISH PEOPLE.

BrisolSpur
BrisolSpur

Chelsea fans have always been very racist. They used to top the NF newspaper poll of racial intolerance and the paper was openly sold outside the ground in the 80s. I have been to Stamford Bridge as a neutral many times and heard constantanti semitic comments and chants. One song even goes "God bless Adolf Hitler, though he did his best..." I'm not Jewish, (in fact I was born in Germany where such references are arrestable), but this is plainly offensive to the memory of 6m murdered people. Its not funny and what has it to do with football?

Yid and Proud
Yid and Proud

we call are selfs Yids all the time half are chants are based round the word i am a season tiket holder and il be more upset if some one said im not a true yid then a yid (well in footbal context) the jewsh sector is near white hart lane and thats were the chants kiked of not for jewish players but fans.

Adam
Adam

There may still be a certain element of anti semitism at Chelsea but at West Ham its even worse where hissing is common. I do believe though that Spurs fans calling themselves the 'yid army' is just an association jibe and means there is no intent of harm from these Spurs fans. Lets be honest, how many football fans are intelligent enough to understand what they are singing about anyway! so in that respect they are not beingblatently anti-semitic.

anon
anon

To Paul: There is a difference between casual taunting of people of opposing descent and chants that insight hatred and the wiping out of an entire nation of jewish origin.

n-word
n-word

1980s chants about Auschwitz... "but I haven’t heard either in nearly 20 years". Why the denial? Have you been to any games? These chants are still common. I went to Chelsea-Spurs a couple of years ago and "Spurs are on their way to Belsen" was ringing out around the ground... Maybe Time Out should have gone to a game and interviewed a few supporters!

Paul
Paul

The moniker "yid" was adopted when tottenham fans of all religions, in a fit of ironic frenzy dropped their pants to show if they were circumsized as the anti-semitic chant suggested. It was this unilateral cross cultural support of the club, that let them call themselves, (and bear the cross[very poor pun intended]) Yids. Seriously, get over it. Discrimination over religion is the same as discrimination over ethnicity, or country of origin, or town of origin...... ...Or season ticket stand of origin