In the UK a great deal has been done in the last few years to stamp out racism by so called supporters at football matches.
The re-emergence of the debate over Tottenham Hotspur supporters’ use of the word “Yid” was not a surprise.
It has popped up periodically over the last few years, a testament to the lack of a satisfactory resolution as to how the Jewish originating word can and cannot be used (if at all). It is a particularly complicated subject for a club that shares such historical links with the Jewish community.
The Football Association’s recent statement on the matter felt that the use of the word was totally unacceptable.
The last couple of weeks have seen an assortment of views offered on whether Tottenham fans chanting the y-word deserve to be judged as being guilty of committing a “criminal offense”—as the FA suggested they could well be.
Most notably, Prime Minister David Cameron told The Jewish Chronicle last week that the chants were OK by him as they were not “motivated by hate.”
Only Cameron could find the use of this word to be acceptable. Unsurprisingly that has not come anywhere near close to resolving the matter.
A Jewish contributor to a recent article on the Kick It Out website labelled the Prime Minister “an absolute disgrace.” Given the historically negative connotations associated with the word, she found it “hard to believe that some Jewish Spurs supporters call themselves ‘yids’.”
Andy Lines a journalist for the UK’s Daily mirror newspaper, spoke to Tottenham supporters who traveled to support their team at on Sunday and noted that A sizable portion of the fanbase have persisted with the chants, supplementing it with their own protest song: “We’re Tottenham Hotspur, we’ll sing what we want.”
A Jewish Spurs fan, Roger Maltz, said it was a “defense mechanism. We are just reclaiming our identity.” He believed he was well within his right having experienced anti-Semitic behavior following the club over the years.
Evidently, there are a few Jewish supporters who feel this way, and will happily join non-Jewish fans in referring to themselves, fellow fans and the players as “Yids.” Others fans remain uncomfortable with its prominent place in the Spurs songbook, at White Hart Lane and on the road.
In the minds of some fans it might well just be something that, as well as claiming back a part of the club’s heritage, has become a colloquial term among fans. But as “claiming back” suggests, there is obviously a different side to use of the “y-word.”
Spurs fans are not without sin when it comes to distasteful and offensive songs and chants. Few clubs can claim to be as such, with these unfortunate elements just a sad reflection on parts of society.
However, a degree of sympathy can be afforded the club’s fan base within the current situation.
As noted, most who join in the use of the “y-word” are harmless in their intent. Those who are more aware of its significance can be partially commended for attempting to claim it as a badge of honour rather than just stand back and let it be used derogatorily against them.
However, it is hard to get away from the following conclusion.
Anything that is capable of causing any number of supporters, players or general staff to (validly) feel genuinely uncomfortable at a football ground is difficult to defend in its long term use. Be that in matters of faiths, race or sexuality.
The process of the word ceasing to be used can only really originate from the fans discussing it among their own (that has partly started at Spurs with a survey on the subject being issued to season ticket holders).
Until that time, it is up to anyone who follows Spurs home or away to decide how much the “y-word” really means to them.