Tottenham Away Pregame – The Y-word issue

Today, Chelsea FC has issued a message to supporters attending the Tottenham game at White Hart Lane tomorrow, reminding them to refrain from “unpleasant and unwanted anti-Semitic behavior”.  The anti-Semitic behavior in question, though never explicitly outlined by Chelsea, is the use of the word “yid” in reference to Spurs supporters.  This term, however, has controversially been embraced by Tottenham supporters themselves, and has thus been firmly ingrained into the fabric of this London rivalry.  Two Jewish Chicago Blues Chelsea supporters explore the issue.


When it comes to inappropriate use of anti-Semitic terms, Tottenham supporters need to take a good look in the mirror

By Dmitry Mogilevsky (@Chelsea_Chicago on twitter)

Let me be very clear.  I think it’s an embarrassing disgrace that this term is used by Tottenham fans for football-related self-identification.  And yes, I’m well aware of the origins of it.  But whenever I voice my opinion on this issue (and if you know me, you know I do that plenty), I feel that my opinion is immediately discounted due to the fact that I’m a Chelsea fan.  Common response is that as a Chelsea fan, I have no room to talk since we have to sort ourselves out when it comes to anti-Semitism first, or that my objection is purely football related, since Tottenham is our rivals and we hate them.  I’ll leave aside the former for now (if you can’t recognize that racist element in Stamford Bridge stands is now a tiny minority, no different than any other ground, you’re beyond help), but the later claim by Spurs supporters is precisely the problem.  Thanks to their tender care for their Semitic brethren (please don’t miss my sacrasm), the word has lost it’s historical context, and became an item in the dictionary of football banter.

The issue for me is actually emphasized by the history of how Tottenham supporters came to be known as Yid Army. While I do believe that the actual number of historical Jewish support for Tottenham is overstated by the club’s supporters for self-serving purposes, it’s hard to dispute that there was a period during which Tottenham was identified as a “Jewish” club, and supporters of other clubs, including Chelsea, hurled the insult “yid” at Tottenham support. As a way of shielding the Jewish contingent of the club from the insults, non-Jewish supporters have adopted the insult as a way to try to “reclaim the word”. 

The problem with this, however, is that non-Jewish supporters of the club have no appreciation for the meaning and gravity of this word to Jewish people.  It is traditionally a way to single Jews out for persecution, discrimination and violence.  Tottenham supporters have, of course, experienced none of these things – they merely experienced some hostile football banter that lacks any bite for them (much like I wouldn’t consider being called a “nigger” a particularly stinging insult). The idea that a bunch of blokes, who are both non-Jewish and don’t have any understanding of the history and issues of anti-Semitism can call themselves “Yid Army” and chant “yiddo” and think they’re doing Jewish people (who, I’m guessing, were not consulted on the idea) a favor is laughable under the most charitable interpretation.  Even if their intention is good, the implementation is demeaning and condescending.

Ultimately, the appropriateness of colloquial use of the word “yid” as a self-identification mascot for football supporters can only be decided by those familiar with the full historical weight of that term. Namely, Jews.  It’s not up to Spurs fans to decide how to fight the fight against anti-Semitism in football, especially since a very strong argument could be made that continuing use of this identity is making casual anti-Semitism in the stands possible.  After all, no one REALLY thinks of Spurs as a Jewish club anymore.  The only reason we hear derogatory shouts of “yids” in the stands of Tottenham opponents nowadays is BECAUSE Tottenham supporters call themselves that.  It has become almost impossible to separate true anti-Semitism (which unfortunately DOES happen, though almost never in England) from thick lads yelling common banter at opposing supporters.  And, of course, lost in all of this is the question of whether Jewish people, regardless of their team affiliation, or even if they’re football supporters at all, are comfortable with tens of thousands of non-Jews repeatedly chanting “yiddo” regardless of the nobility of their intent.

Simple Question, Complex Answers In Tottenham Fan Controversy

By Lou Uhler (@StevensBoudreau on Twitter)

As Chelsea approaches the first of about eleven “Biggest Game Of The Year”s tomorrow morning, we once again see a London club, in particular it’s fans, in the middle of a controversy that has nothing to do with kicking a ball into a net.

The debate comes from the use of the word “Yid”.  Recently, there have been calls for fans of Tottenham to cease from using the term “Yid Army”, calling themselves “Yids” and in general, from using the word at all. Some Tottenham fans see the word as a badge of honor, some accept it, and some despise it.  It’s that love-hate relationship that makes the debate so passionate.  If the debate had to be lumped up in a simple question, it would be “Is it OK for Spurs fans to say it, when it is looked down upon when another group says it?”.

This is a simple question with complex explanations.  First, too much debate has been put upon the “Spurs fans vs fans of other teams”.  The debate is about a word, that for the most part, does not describe a Spurs fan, but a Jewish person.  While Spurs have historically had a large Jewish following, not all Spurs are Jews and not all Jews are Spurs fans.  It is a simple idea that far often gets far to lost in debate.

What must also be looked at, is the idea of examining the word “acceptable” and “OK” through different lenses when it comes to different parts of our society.

From the standpoint of the law and the court, you can not say it is legal for a Spurs fan or a Jew to use the word, but illegal for a black Chelsea supporter to use it. Laws must be laws, and special exceptions cannot be made for traits like race, religion, etc.

The more complex issue is the social acceptability of chants or slogans. People have free will, and can do what they please, but they must be ready to face consequences.  That is what this debate boils down to. Knowing what your circle is, who you are around, and what they will think.  A Spurs fan who will be heading to White Hart Lane just as soon as Saturday services end has just as much of a right to say the word “Yid” as a Liverpool supporter who waits until Sunday to send his “Please take us back to the Champions League” prayers to god. 

Yet in both cases, those fans must be ready for the backlash.  Just as the fans are allowed to scream, shout, or sing the word, they must be ready for whatever comes with that, whether it be happiness or hatred.  The Jewish Spurs supporter will have to take into account the people around him, and there is a better chance he is surrounded by people who take offense to the word than the Liverpool fan does (Liverpool fans accepting bigotry? NEVER!!).  The main point in this, is it is very hard to have rules and regulations in a societal sense that will apply to everyone the same, for this, I feel that speech should be free, but if you are to use this word, tread lightly.  You can even see in this article, that all slurs, except for Liverpool, have quotation marks around them.

Those on the other side, those fuelling a lot of this debate need to then decide how to react. If the word offense any type of fan or person, they need to take it on them to fight that word, teach others about what that word means.  One reason why the debate hasn’t really had traction stateside, even among knowledgeable fans, is that not many understand the word.  “Nigger”, probably the most controversial word in our society, brings out emotion, history, debate. “faggot”, “spic”, “cracker”, and countless others do as well.  “Yid” does not, hell it’s not even the most used slur of Judaism in the US (My guess would be “kike”), and thus without reference as to what the word means, how it has been used, and thus no emotional connection to the word.

A larger debate on linguistics, and how we give meaning to words could take place, and should take place if this debate rages on.  For now, do as you wish, but know that it could come with the loss of your image, the loss of your friends, or any other sort of negative outcomes.  Mostly, sing about the boys in blue, not the fans in white, and never, ever be this guy.


One thought on “Tottenham Away Pregame – The Y-word issue

  1. yiddo

    This is an absolute joke, I stopped reading after the first response because the author clearly doesn’t know much about the issue but is willing to criticize spurs fans for the same thing

    “Tottenham supporters have, of course, experienced none of these things – they merely experienced some hostile football banter that lacks any bite for them”

    Except you know, the times when away fans were attacked, put in hospital and pubs they were having a drink in ransacked in places like Italy because they support Tottenham, known around the world as a historically Jewish club.

    “The only reason we hear derogatory shouts of “yids” in the stands of Tottenham opponents nowadays is BECAUSE Tottenham supporters call themselves that”

    That maybe true, but if youre arguing that anti-antisemitism would stop because we stop using that then youre mistaken. Chelsea supporters still made (and still do make) hissing noises when the word was adopted


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