Tackling the 'Y' word

By Marcus Dysch
April 15, 2011

There has been a great deal of coverage given to the campaign to kick antisemitism out of football in the past 24 hours.

The Guardian’s Anna Kessel makes as good an attempt as any I’ve seen so far to get to the nitty gritty of this problem: What are we meant to do when many Tottenham fans use the word ‘yid’ as a term of endearment, and others use it as a vehicle for crude abuse?

No one has any truck with those ‘fans’ who step over the line and cross into the utterly unacceptable by singing about Auschwitz and hissing to imitate gas chambers. There is no place in sport, or anywhere else, for such vile antisemitism.

But tackling the use of the ‘Y’ word in isolation is not an easy task, as Anna points out:

As long as Tottenham fans can chant "yid", the question will always arise: why can't Chelsea or Arsenal or any other fans do the same? On the football message boards this very debate has raged for years. I recently read one Chelsea fan's tale of watching his fellow supporters get arrested for chanting "yid" – and receive three year bans from attending matches – while over in the away end Tottenham fans chanted the same word without consequence.

She also raises another important point, made briefly by my colleague Danny Caro yesterday. Why are there no Jewish football personalities in the film? Yes, it’s written by two Jewish brothers, but when so many of the country’s biggest clubs are owned and run by Jews, why are they nowhere to be seen in the Baddiels’ film? And, I’m told, they were also largely absent from yesterday’s launch.

It is admirable that players such as the Premier League’s first British Asian player, Zesh Rehman, stepped up to appear. But where were Roman Abramovich, Alan Sugar, Yossi Benayoun, Ronny Rosenthal, FA chief David Bernstein…. The list could go on.

Arguably, most important of all, where was Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, the man who leads one of the clubs at the heart of this matter?

Rarely, if ever, has a Jewish issue in football been in the spotlight in this fashion, but quite how the situation is supposed to develop from here is difficult for this football fan, and others, to fathom.


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