Blues failed Yossi, say fans


Chelsea FC's decision formally to complain about antisemitic abuse directed at Israeli midfielder Yossi Benayoun by Malaysian football fans has been met with a mixed reaction.

The swift action was praised by the Community Security Trust and the Zionist Federation, along with anti-racism group Kick it Out. The Malaysian Football Association's response, in which they apologised but questioned whether Benayoun had been jeered at, was greeted with less enthusiasm.

But some fans questioned whether Chelsea, owned by Jewish businessman Roman Abramovich, should have taken Benayoun to a Muslim majority country which does not recognise the Jewish state. "It's like taking a Jewish player to play a BNP team," said MSFL referee Neal Cohen.

"It's all about money - they went to Malaysia to expand their fan base," said Chelsea season ticket holder Daniel Silver. But he praised the club for taking a stand rather than copying West Ham, who five years ago left both Benayoun and Yaniv Katan out of training in Dubai.

Tension over Chelsea's attitude to antisemitic supporters has a longer history. Hearing the word "Yid" and hissing noises to imitate gas chambers - often at Chelsea-Tottenham matches - prompted the Y Word campaign. It was backed by Chelsea's Frank Lampard, although not by Benayoun.

"Chelsea are doing things now but they haven't done enough over the years," said Mr Cohen, a Tottenham fan. Chelsea supporter Mark Levine said the situation had improved, with regular anti-racism announcements at the ground and in the club literature.

He said: "I'd say 90 per cent of the crowd are very well behaved."

A Chelsea spokesman said: "We believe it is important to educate supporters and local communities in conjunction with taking action against fans who use any form of discriminatory behaviour.

"We will continue to, as we have done for many years, provide educational campaigns with local schools, work closely with anti-discrimination organisations like Kick it Out and include relevant messaging in our match day programmes, website and within the stadium.

"Improvements in our CCTV system at Stamford Bridge also mean that we can identify such behaviour more easily."

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