Opinion: Football Association's 'Y word' stance will not solve a darker issue (From Enfield Independent)
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Spurs fans are seeking to turn a negative into a positive
4:59pm Friday 13th September 2013 in News
By Martin Buhagiar
I can still remember queuing up full of excitement.
I would hand over £4 for the privilege of standing in the Paxton End, 50p for a programme, 50p for a burger and then my 90 minutes with Glenn Hoddle could begin.
Going to Spurs in the early 80s had a lot going for it. Cheap, plenty of trophies (three in four years) and wonderful footballers.
I always positioned myself very close to the front of the terrace so you could hear the players shout when we had a corner. Travelling to the game was much easier than now and, when my dad couldn’t join us, he would drop me and my friend off by the West Stand gates and pick us up at 5pm.
By 1986 I had started to take more of an interest in the chants. I remember listening to a group of lads singing the Clive Allen song that I was desperate to learn the words to. It was then that I heard one shout: “Yiiiddddooosss”. I couldn’t make it out exactly. Everyone joined in, as did I, rather embarrassingly chanting: “Yeeeeoooowww”, until my friend set me straight.
“It’s Yido,” he said under his breath, looking around to see if anyone heard me.
“What does that mean?” I replied.
“I don’t know, but it’s what we sing.”
“Ok, okay. Yiiidddoooosss.”
I carried on singing it without a second thought. Chants of ‘Yid Army’ followed and then my personal favourite - a fan would shout: “Somebody give me a Y”, he would carry on until he had completed the word ‘Yido’. We would all repeat the letters, and then jump around chanting the word. I remember doing this for almost 20 minutes non-stop at Loftus Road.
Fast forward a few years and I had now found out what the word meant and I understood why we chanted it. It was 1994 and the terraces had been replaced by seats. The seats were more expensive and the football was much less entertaining. The trophies and the top three league finishes were not quite as common either.
Despite this, I renewed my season ticket with my friend and found myself sitting next to a new fan on my right. He was Jewish. He loved chanting ‘Yid Army’. He did, however, confess that he once muttered the word at home and was told in no uncertain terms by his father never to use it again. He ignored this order when he was at Spurs with his brother.
And that has remained the problem for years since. Spurs fans do not intend to offend anyone by using the word ‘Yid’. They never have, despite understanding that it may offend some.
It was first used by fans who sought to turn a negative into a positive, much like American rappers did with the ‘N’ word.
I went to watch Spurs at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea a few years ago and when they scored they chanted about being “sheep sh*ggers”. I’m sure that term would offend some Welsh people, but clearly the fans who sing it are not intending to upset their own community.
And that is the issue with the Football Association’s stance.
For the police to arrest and charge someone with a hate crime - surely hate must play a part?
It seems every year someone sparks this debate and every year it disappears and everything carries on as before. First David Baddiel, then Peter Herbert and now the FA.
I am sure their intentions are good, but simply stopping Spurs fans calling themselves ‘Yid Army’ will not eradicate the bizarre and disgusting anti-Semitism spouted in their direction by supporters of other London clubs.
Perhaps, as a Chelsea fan, it is easier for Mr Baddiel to blame Spurs fans when he hears sick chants at Stamford Bridge, even when Tottenham are not the visiting team.
In 2006 the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust asked the FA to create a programme aimed at educating fans of opposing teams about the word and its origins in a bid to stop them using it. The FA did nothing.
Education is exactly what is needed. And badly.
When Arsenal signed Mesut Ozil earlier this month one fan took to Twitter to say: “Yes, another German at Arsenal. Welcome Ozil. F**k off yids. #Nazis”
The account has since been deleted.
Anti Semitism aimed at Spurs fans is rife on Twitter. Just search the ‘Y word’…
In 2008 I was on my way to Wembley for the Carling Cup final. I happened to sit down in a carriage full of Chelsea fans who happily sang about running around Wembley with their genitalia hanging out so they could prove they had a foreskin. The song ended with a hissing sound. The fact their football club is owned and bankrolled by a Russian Jew was clearly lost on them. Israeli international Yossi Benayoun was also booed by a small section of the club’s fans last season, leading the club to launch an anti-Semitism investigation.
Heading to Upton Park on the Tube, we sat in silence as West Ham fans chanted: “We paid Hitler’s gas bill, we paid Hitler’s gas bill.”
They finished with a rousing rendition of: “Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz, Hitler’s going to gas them again,” to the tune of our very own ‘Spurs are on their way to Wembley’.
Then a West Ham fan was arrested at White Hart Lane last season for deciding to Nazi salute in the away end. Of course, West Ham’s Jewish owners rightly condemned the gesture, but sadly the minority who chant such songs will not take any notice.
This is the tip of the iceberg. Head to YouTube and you can watch as proud fans capture fellow supporters enjoying a little bit of anti-Semitism at various grounds around the country – all aimed at Spurs fans of course, even though we are not playing. It is almost as if, to a very small minority of fans, this is as enjoyable as the football.
Spurs fans were also targeted in bars by far-right groups during European away trips last season.
I often wonder if the likes of Baddiel, Herbert, the FA and others believe this will all stop if Tottenham Hotspur fans stop referring to themselves as ‘Yids’.
Of course it won’t, but they have no idea how to combat the extreme anti-Semitism aimed in our direction.
The FA has long skirted around issues rather than tackling the root cause. English football’s governing body believes a gesture is needed and that is exactly what this is.
It is impossible to prosecute a Spurs fan calling a player they idolise or fellow fans a ‘Yid’ because no hate crime has been committed. You could fill Wood Green Crown Court every week with 20,000 Spurs fans and not one would be convicted for using the word in an offensive manner.
Jay-Z would not be arrested at his concert for using the ‘N’ word. If I called someone that on Twitter I would expect to face prosecution.
Education is the key.
Perhaps when the anti-Semitism from rival fans has stopped, Spurs fans will not feel the need to use the ‘Y' word anymore. But until the FA and whoever else has solved that issue, Spurs fans will continue to turn a negative into a wonderful positive.
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