Essay Anti-Semitism in Soccer

Submitted By AustinGeller
Words: 5106
Pages: 21

Growing up playing soccer, I’ve always felt a bit as an outsider amongst my soccer-crazed friends as someone who loves playing the sport, but not so much watching it. Consequently, I’ve never identified with a team, other than the U.S. men’s national team. Over the years, I’ve been looking for a team I can identify and then align with so I can at least half-heartedly join the discussions about one’s team with friends. A trip to Manchester as a child made the Red Devils an easy team to back, but as an avid Mets fan they always reminded me too much of the evil empire that is the New York Yankees. Only a few years ago did I learn of Tottenham Hot Spur, and the Israeli flags that are a common-site at home games. As a Jew, this seemed like a no-brainer team that I can support. I now had a team and a favorite player in Gareth Bale (before he transferred), to cheer for and learn about. In learning Tottenham tradition, I learned that they call themselves Yids. This puzzled me a bit, but ultimately I thought, and still do think, it’s funny. I acknowledge, however, this issue is not straightforward and deserves more attention. Just because I am not offended by the Yid Army’s chants and identity, doesn’t mean that others might not be, whether they are Jewish or not. People on both sides of the debate are steadfast in their stance on the subject. David Baddiel, a famous Jewish comedian from England has lead efforts in trying to get the word Yid eradicated, along with all other of Tottenham’s associations with Judaism (MirrorFootball). He partnered with Kick It Out, an organization aimed to “kick out” racism in soccer, in his efforts to get rid of the ‘Y-word”. The Society of Black Lawyers is another organization that is going the legal route to try and abolish the word (Young). The other side of the argument is in the vast majority. In addition to the entire Tottenham fan base, David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has gone on the record as saying that Spurs fans should not be punished for their use of the word Yid (Gibson).
In learning more about the situation of anti-Semitism in soccer in Europe, I have developed a new understanding and position of the situation. Anti-Semitism is still a serious problem in Europe that needs to be addressed from all levels, including soccer. While the self-identification of Tottenham fans as Yids is not anti-Semitic, it perpetuates anti-Semitism among rival fans. This keeps the anti-Semitic spirit alive in English and European society, which is why the celebration of Yid should be banned. Merriam-Webster defines anti-Semitism to be the “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.” By this definition and any other, Tottenham fans are not anti-Semitic. The pride and unity they have in their Yid identity couldn’t be more paradoxical. Although a majority, safe to say over 90%, of supporters at any given home game are not Jewish and can’t speak a word of Yiddish, there is no mal-intent in the word (Dean). Fans don’t claim to identify with the Ashkenazic Jews who speak the language. The word to them is defined only as someone who supports Tottenham. If you Google “what do Manchester United, Chelsea, or Liverpool fans call themselves”, you won’t find a definitive answer. Each has a few different names, but not one name that all fans unanimously call themselves. If you do the same for Tottenham you’re flooded with pages of information about the Yids and Yid Army. It’s uncommon for a fan base to be as united around an adopted identity as Tottenham’s. This unity in itself motivates their fans to call themselves Yids. There is no confusion amongst themselves who they are and what they stand for – Spurs glory. Originally, fans may have called themselves Yids as an act of defiance and found pride in that defiance itself. Now, fans find pride in their unity as Yids. This makes them continue to call themselves Yids. This also takes any