LONDON - For almost 30 years the Y-word has been used as a 'badge of honor' by fans of Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur but a campaign to stop them using 'Yid Army' has been launched by an anti-racist pressure group.
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The Kick It Out Campaign's initiative is not just aimed at Spurs fans, who adopted the term for themselves after years of hearing opposing supporters direct it at them, but the fans of any club tempted to use anti-Semitic chants or insults.
A powerful film has been made called "The Y-word" featuring appeals by England internationals Frank Lampard of Chelsea, Tottenham's Ledley King and Kieran Gibbs of Arsenal plus a message from former Spurs and England striker Gary Lineker.
The film spearheads a campaign to stamp out anti-Semitism in football and remind supporters they can be prosecuted for using the words 'yid' or 'yiddo', which has its origins in the High German language Yiddish.
The film's producers, comedian David Baddiel and his brother Ivor, a
writer, know they face a huge task in changing attitudes to the use of
the word which, they admit, many people have no idea is offensive.
But as Ivor, who like his brother is a Chelsea fan, told Reuters in an interview near Tottenham's White Hart Lane ground:
"You have to start somewhere. No one thought the N-word could be
eradicated from the game in the 1970s, but now you hardly ever hear it.
The same with the term "paki" and it should be the same for using the
word yid or yiddo...
"I am under no illusions the film is going to change attitudes
overnight. But I hope the next generation of Spurs fans will understand
it better and it will be eradicated."
No one is exactly sure why Tottenham have become identified as a
'Jewish' club because their fan base demographic is virtually identical
to near neighbours Arsenal.
Both clubs have many Jewish supporters but whether Tottenham's blue and
white colors - the same as the Israeli flag - played a part, or their
proximity to the Stamford Hill area in north London where many Orthodox
Jews live, is unclear.
The parting of the ways between Spurs and Arsenal as far as this issue
is concerned occurred almost 30 years ago in 1982 as Tottenham fan Shaun
"Spurs were playing Arsenal at Highbury when a hard-core element of
Spurs fans stormed down the terracing of the North Bank, scattering
Arsenal fans in their wake and raising two Israeli flags in triumph in
the Arsenal heartland.
"From then on, as far as I know, Spurs became the Yid Army."
Baddiel, and others, can relate far nastier aspects of "yiddo"
connotations and in the film fans of one unidentified club are shown
chanting "Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz, Seig Heil, Hitler's going
to gas them again."
Rival fans often make 'hissing' sounds at Spurs supporters as if they
were being gassed and the whole atmosphere at some matches can become
Tottenham director Donna Cullen, talking at the launch of the film, said she understood why Spurs fans reacted as they did.
"Historically the Y-word has been adopted as a 'call to arms' by our
fans in order to own the term and deflect anti-Semitic abuse.
"Our fans will say, 'Get rid of the anti-Semitism and we'll think about
our use of the term'. We wouldn't tell them not to though, at this
Tim Framp, the Spurs fan who organized a supporters' campaign against
the club's proposed move from White Hart Lane to the Olympic Stadium at
Stratford, makes a telling point.
"I never heard the word "yid" when I was growing up and only ever
associated it with Spurs. It would never have occurred to me to use it
as an insult to someone. I'll chant it on the terraces, but would never
dream of using it in the street.
"It has a different meaning to different people. But I do support this
idea. I am against racism but I don't think Spurs fans should be bashed
because they use it. They are using it in the best possible way. The
N-word disappeared, maybe this word will too."
Baddiel said the similarities between the N-word and the Y-word were not quite the same.
"Black people reclaimed the N-word and it wasn't all black people, it
mainly came from the rap culture, it was their word to reclaim as it had
been targeted at them, secondly by reclaiming it they largely diffused
it being used and, thirdly, they use it because they are proud to be
"The crucial difference with Spurs fans is that they are not saying the
Y-word because they are proud to be Jewish, they are using the Y-word
because they are proud to be Spurs fans. As a Jew I do not find that
"A large number of Spurs fans are not Jewish and by using it it doesn't
diminish the word at all. Other clubs fans chant it back at them and if
anything in greater numbers and with far more venom and bile," added
A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman confirmed it would prosecute
anyone using the Y-word for a "hate-crime" and in the film Lampard warns
"Some might think it is just a bit of a laugh but racist chanting is
against the law. It's against the law to call someone the Y-word in the
street. So if you fancy joining in what you think is a bit of harmless
chanting, think again."
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