Radio review: Ajax - the Jewish club

By Simon Round, February 7, 2013

Radio 5 Live

Fans of Dutch football club Ajax call themselves the “super Jews”. They wear scarves adorned with Stars of David and display Israeli flags in the Amsterdam Arena where the team plays .But Ajax is not a Jewish club. Only 500 of the weekly attendance of 50,000 is Jewish.

This was a fascinating and disturbing investigation into why Ajax fans have adopted this spurious Jewish identity.

Before the Second World War, Amsterdam had a Jewish community of 100,000 out of the city’s 700,000 inhabitants. As a result, the city had a Jewish character but Ajax was not considered a particularly Jewish club.
That was until 30 years ago, when the chant of “super Joden” first sprang up on the terraces.

The only explanation anyone could come up with was that as Ajax were generally hated around the Dutch League and Amsterdam was historically a Jewish city, they allied themselves with a similarly hated group – the Jews.

Now Ajax’s rivals really had something to get their teeth into. Antisemitic chants follow Ajax around — “Hamas, Hamas, all Jews to the gas” is one of the more popular songs.

'If everyone feels Jewish, you don't have to be Jewish to have the feeling you are Jewish'

An Ajax fan tried hard to explain the Jewish affiliation. He said: “If everyone feels Jewish, you don’t have to be Jewish to have the feeling you are Jewish.” However, the club’s Jewish former chairman Uri Coronel was ambivalent.

“At first, we were all shocked. But at a certain stage I got used to it. People waved the Israeli flag and I even felt proud. In Israel, they love Ajax, they call it ‘our club’, but that’s ridiculous because there are no Jews in the stadium.”

A Dutch Holocaust survivor told of how he had become disillusioned with the imitation Jewishness of the club he had followed for years and one day walked out of the stadium in tears never to return, leaving the non-Jewish Ajax fans with their Star of David tattoos to sing, “whoever doesn’t stand up isn’t a Jew”.

Next Tuesday, a new series of Alex Polizzi – The Fixer begins on BBC2 at 8pm. In the first episode, businesswoman Polizzi takes on three Jewish brothers whose fabric shop is stuck in a time warp. Not only does she have to persuade them to modernise, she also has to get three Jewish siblings to agree on what needs to be done — exacting for her and very entertaining for the viewer.

Last updated: 11:58am, February 7 2013