Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Y Word

On Sunday the swagger returned to White Hart Lane. Spurs dispatched West Ham in the style of seasons past. Quick movement on and off the ball, controlled passing and decisive strikes in front of goal, the good old days could be well be on their way back for Tottenham and their manager Andre Villas-Boas.

Sadly though it wasn’t just this positive part of nostalgia and history which reappeared on Sunday. The vile, racist and abusive chants emanating from the West Ham fans were a sickening reminder of the bad old days, the seventies and eighties when the hooligan ruled the terraces.

The chants themselves have been well documented and don’t need repeating here but we are now facing the recrimination and aftermath. Questions like why did they happen and what can be done by the authorities to tackle them.

People like Peter Herbert from The Society of Black Lawyers and David Baddiel are very clear in their opinions of why. The use of the ‘Y word’ by Tottenham fans is wrong, leads to the legitimising of the word which in turn leads to it’s use by opposition fans. Their view is that it is a racist term and should not be used in any context by any person or group.

Let me get this out in the open straight away. If David Baddiel, a Jew himself says that the word is racist, I believe him. If he says that it’s use should be banned or eradicated I believe him. I also believe that the cause of the SOBL is a noble one. I even think that somewhere down the line the chant of ‘Yid Army’ will disappear from Tottenham fans’ repertoire.

I don’t however believe that the use of the Y word instigated and heightened the problem on Sunday. Anti-Semitic abuse existed long before Tottenham fans ‘reclaimed’ the word and used it as a badge of honour. Chants by their neighbours have regularly referenced their Jewish heritage, despite that fact that, as Baddiel argues, Spurs don’t have many more Jewish fans than other clubs.

This chanting has continued throughout the intervening years although not to the severity or viciousness of what was witnessed on Sunday. And at this point it is worth noting that it isn’t just West Ham fans who target Tottenham, other clubs supporters have too. And it is also worth noting that it is not all fans of a club we are talking about.

But it was the sheer scale of the chanting and the actual chants used on Sunday that was shocking. The attacks on Spurs fans in Rome just 4 days earlier, that look to have been more racially motivated rather than football related, are a definite catalyst but the sheer fact the anti-Semitic chanting is now in the news also plays a part.

Putting it in the media spotlight has merely reminded some of the idiots that go to football matches that it exists. Spurs fans chanting ‘Yid Army’ certainly didn’t do that, certainly didn’t warrant mention of Hitler or gassing noises. And even if Spurs dispense with the phrase, others will still refer to them as the ‘Jewish club’.

Mind you, the SOBL and David Baddiel might say that the ends justify the means. Having the debate in the public arena was their first goal. How the FA deal with the issue will be interesting and will define how their second goal is seen. They have in the past only sporadically penalised teams for offensive chanting by their fans. But perhaps now is the time for the footballing authorities to make a stand and tackle the issue head on.

As mentioned previously I believe the use of ‘Yid’ by Tottenham fans will probably disappear, but whether it’s replacement is any better remains to be seen. ‘Jew Army’ might be seen as equally provoking whereas ‘White Army’ opens up as whole different can of worms.

Whatever happens it does seem that we are at a crossroads. The issue is now out in the open. If it is dealt with effectively it could signify the first steps on the road to removing racism from football.

Otherwise the bad old days may be here once more.

No comments:

Post a Comment