Tag Archives: spurs

The People Of The Ball.

I spent a lovely couple of hours at the Jewish Museum in Camden walking around 4-4-Jew, the exhibition on Jewish involvement in British football.

I admit I thought that after half an hour I would be out of there. I always used to think that Jews in British football started and stopped with Barry Silkman, who played for Crystal Palace, my dad’s team.  But I was still there after two hours and time flew by. It was wonderful.

I sat on an improvised mini-football terrace and watched a 20 minute film  in which pundits, ex-players and ex-Chairmen spoke about their own Jewish involvement in the beautiful game in Britain.

Author and journalist Anthony Clavane related that in the sixties Leeds United fans used to complain that while Leeds Rugby League club had the great Lewis Jones they only had Jewish loans. It was true. But, as Clavane said, had three Jewish Leeds United directors not given Leeds United interest free loans of £10,000 each then Leeds United would have gone bust.

David Bernstein, ex-Chairman of the Football Association, related how the reason he came to support Manchester City was because he loved their Sky Blue shirts. There’s a board at the exhibition on which you can write why you support the football team you do. We each have our own story to tell.

There was a fascinating corner on the time England played Germany at White Hart Lane in 1935. Footage showed the two teams facing each other before the game. During both national anthems and Abide With Me the German team gave the Nazi salute.

How could the FA let this game take place. The Star newspaper described tensions leading up to the match and how Barnett Janner MP (father of Greville) went to the Football Association to protest on behalf of British Jews.

A 1965 Arsenal football programme contains an apology to Arsenal’s Jewish supporters for playing an FA Cup match during Passover. How times change. A few weeks ago Spurs played a game on Yom Kippur without even a word. Maybe Spurs recognised that some Jews would go to that game.

The question left hanging was did football change us or had we changed enough already for that game to have taken place on the holiest day in Judaism?

On the walls were mini screens which showed old footage that lasted no longer than three minutes each. Chief Rabbi Sachs tell the hilarious story of when he went to see Arsenal v Manchester with the Archbishop of Canterbury. They are both Gooners, but Arsenal lost 6-2 at home!

There was a sense at 4-4-Jew that for British Jews football and Judaism are both religions; equally as important. But it shouldn’t be considered a bad thing. Clavane described how Leeds Jews would hide their cars around the corner from synagogue and go off to Elland Road after synagogue. No one admitted it, but they all did it.

And he told how his rabbi bumped into Don Revie, the late Leeds United manager, at a Jewish wedding. The rabbi told Revie that they had the same congregation; he has them in the morning and Revie had them in the afternoon.

You see, it didn’t have to be all or nothing as in keeping Shabbat 100% or not at all. By going to synagogue and then being taken to football at least Jewish children got a sense of the importance of  Shabbat.

There was also a corner of the exhibition analysing Spurs fans singing of “Yid Army” (or the “Y” word lest we offend). There were many quotes from both sides of the argument but how can anyone argue with this quote taken from The Guardian website:

“As a Jewish Spurs fan, it has always been a badge of immense pride to hear 35,000 people at White Hart Lane proudly use an otherwise offensive term as a badge of honour.”

The only thing not to like about 4-4-Jew, for me, is the title of the exhibition. Why did they not call it The People Of The Ball, which I took as the headline for this piece off one of the posters at the exhibition?

“Jew” is also used disparagingly. I can understand the use of “Jews” to describe a collective of people. But “Jew” is used when “Jewish person” is far more preferable.

“Jew” implies that religion is a person’s defining characteristic, when “Jewish person” implies it is one of many. It is a term just as potentially explosive as “Yid”, but no one is banning the “J” word. Even 4-4-Jewish would have been preferable.

So here’s the question for David Baddiel, who wants Spurs fans banned from singing “Yid Army”: What if those fans chanted “Jew Army” instead? It would still invite  sick chants of “Spurs are on their way to Belsen” from opposing fans.

Would Baddiel then campaign that the “J” word be banned as well?

Advertisements

Anti-Semitism, football and that Daily Mail article.

If you are at White Hart Lane today to see Spurs v West Ham you risk being arrested for singing “Yid Army” or “Yiddoes”, typical refrains of the Spurs faithful.

Not an ounce of malice is intended, but just because a few with fame and influence, like David Baddiel, have complained about “Yid” being used in this context the Metropolitan Police have taken a stand starting with today’s game.

I’m Jewish. I like hearing Spurs sing “Yid army”. No harm is intended. It is a bit of fun. Spurs have a lot of Jewish supporters and have a Jewish chairman, Jewish directors and once had a Jewish manager in David Pleat. Spurs fans are embracing that positively.

It is a far cry from calling someone a “dirty Yid” which is obviously racist. That prefix makes all the difference.

It is sad that the police have been taken in by Baddiel. When playing Spurs certain opposition fans chant “Spurs are on their way to Belsen” (some Leeds United fans) or hiss to imitate the sound of Zyklon B being thrown into the gas chambers by the Nazis (some Chelsea fans). That’s racism. Arrest those racist thugs, but not Spurs fans who intend no racism at all.

It’s not just Baddiel. The British public is being taken in by the likes of Owen Jones and Jonathan Freedland who are crying “anti-Semitism!” due to that Daily Mail article headlined “The Man Who Hated Britain” about Ralph Miliband, Ed Miliband’s father.

Ralph was Jewish. He was a refugee. He was a Communist thinker. Any of these three aspects have been deadly for Jews in the past, admittedly.

But, does this now mean that we cannot criticise a Jewish person with Ralph’s background, or any Jewish person?

This is Owen Jones:

“As others have pointed out, this whole episode reeks of anti-Semitism – of the rootless cosmopolitan Jew with contempt for his country, and so on.”

Even Ed Miliband who has spent the week coming to his father’s defence on radio, tv and in print, doesn’t sense any anti-Semitism in the affair, but to Jones it “reeks” of anti-Semitism? Wow!

Jonathan Freedland digs even deeper in his attempt to make the “anti-Semitic” label stick:

“This is why I…stopped at the reference in Tuesday’s editorial to “the jealous God of Deuteronomy.” That looked like another veiled pointer to both Miliband Sr’s indelible alienness – and his membership of an ancient, vengeful people.”

This is what the Mail actually wrote on that score:

“We do not maintain, like the jealous God of Deuteronomy, that the iniquity of the fathers should be visited on the sons. But when a son with prime ministerial ambitions swallows his father’s teachings, as the younger Miliband appears to have done, the case is different.”

So the Mail is using this biblical reference as an example of what generally shouldn’t happen. That’s all. Based on Freedland’s assertion we should now be careful lest we associate any biblical reference directly or indirectly with a Jewish person. How sad.

And Marc Goldberg is easily influenced by Daniel Trilling’s attack on the Mail in the New Statesman. Trilling writes “The subtext…is that there’s something foreign about Ed Miliband himself”. Goldberg empathises:

“..if even Ralph Miliband, the Marxist who left his Judaism way behind him and sired the head of the Labour Party could come under attack for not being British enough, then maybe the rest could too.”

Even Charles Moore accuses the Mail of “attacking a Jew”!

There are many other examples of this hyperbolic response to the Mail’s attack on Ralph Miliband. Commentators should attack real examples of anti-Semitism before trying to board the “it’s anti-Semitism!” bandwagon.

Alex Brummer, who is a journalist for the Mail, thinks apologies should be made by those who have suggested anti-Semitism by the Daily Mail. He’s right.

As Ed Miliband, himself, said when asked if the Daily Mail was being anti-Semitic:

“I’m always incredibly careful about throwing around the idea that the paper or somebody is anti-Semitic or racist unless there is real evidence for that.”

Ken Bates responds to anti-Semitic chants

Ken Bates, Chairman of Leeds United (Daily Mail)

I wrote to Ken Bates a few weeks ago after seeing a child give a Hitler salute and hearing some fans around me singing “Spurs are on their way to Belsen” at the Leeds v Spurs FA Cup replay at Elland Road on February 3rd.

He very kindly telephoned me a few days later and the gist of what he said is as stated in his programme notes on the subject for tonight’s home game against Walsall. They are as follows:

I had a complaint from a Leeds fan who lives in London about the anti-Jewish chanting when we played Spurs. The substituting of “Auschwitz” and “Belsen” when the Spurs fans were singing that they were “on the road to Wembley” is so old hat. The Second World War ended 65 years ago and I had to contend with the same nonsense nearly 30 years ago when I was at Chelsea. Do me a favour, please grow up.

In case you don’t know it Leeds is a club with strong Jewish connections. In fact I am one of the few non-Jewish chairman going back as far as I can remember. I don’t have a problem with Jews. I was, in fact, the only gentile in Jerusalem at a bar mitzvah and looked so Jewish with my beard, little black hat and overcoat that I was asked to join other ceremonies.

There are a few exceptions (I could name one or two) but by and large they are a talented race who punch above their weight in all aspects of society. Mind you, the north London lot don’t help themselves by describing themselves as “Tottenham Yids”. In the old days they even wore badges to that effect.

However, it is not good enough to write to me some days later complaining after the event. Around the ground at Elland Road there are boards advising you of the text number 07946 362117. If you have a problem, use it – whereupon our response team will be quick to react. Remember, for evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.

You’re only here to watch the Leeds

Phew. That was close. I am just back from Brisbane Road where I went through the indignity of sitting with the Orient fans (it being impossible to get an away end ticket with these division one grounds being so blooming small).

Max Gradel breaks free with the ball.

With Leeds totally dominating typically they went behind. But just as the Orient fans around me were preparing to celebrate the final whistle they were hilariously silenced when Charlie Daniels lashed the ball past his own goalie.

The ref blew up 20 seconds later. A famous victory was denied them and the two teams are unlikely to ever meet again. 

Despair after conceding a 95th minute own goal.

I was sat opposite the huge Leeds travelling support who delightfully kept singing “Leeds are going up” to the tune of K.C & The Sunshine Band’s “na na na na na na na na na na Baby give it up“.

And as ever they also directed “You’re only here to watch the Leeds” at the Orient fans (which is probably true seeing as the crowd of 8013 was by far Orient’s biggest of the season).

You're only here to watch the Leeds

Finally, the lads travelled back north happy and left the Orient fans with the Leeds anthem “Marching on Together” ringing sickeningly in their ears.

The huge travelling Leeds support.

On another note I had a phone-call from Ken Bates this week. I had written to him out of concern over the Nazi salute I had seen and Belsen chants I had heard when Leeds played Spurs in the recent FA Cup replay at Elland Road.

He suggested I should have done something myself like contact a steward, ring the number in the programme or even remonstrate with the culprits myself. 

He said he would have had the culprits banned from Elland Road and then quoted me Edmund Burke’s “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing”.

He had a point although after a three hour drive I’d rather enjoy the game than have to explain to a steward who said what and where. As for remonstrating myself (I did actually try briefly but gave up) even he agreed that “it was likely that I would have had my front teeth pushed in”.

He told me about his visit to Israel and to the Western Wall for a barmitzvah. After 20 minutes he wished me well and told me he would address the issue in his programme notes.

Just before ringing off he asked me what I do. When I told him I was a journalist he suggested I should get a more respectable career like becoming a coke-dealer or a pimp.

It was good that he called me though. I don’t think too many Chairman would take time out of their busy schedule to speak with a fan over their concerns.

I also took the opportunity to express my worry over our current league form. “We’re working on that,” he replied.

So if you are going to Leeds V Walsall this tuesday please let me know what his programme notes say. They normally make an interesting read anyway as they focus on world events in addition to the footy.

Leeds United and anti-Semitism

Leeds United (epltalk)

I read a fascinating but sad piece by Jessica Elgot of the JC on the racism she encountered at the Spurs v Leeds game last weekend.

I thought it would be the normal diatribe about Spurs fans singing “Yid Army” being anti-Semitic. It really isn’t. Spurs fans sing it week in week out and there has never been a hint of anti-Semitism about it. Spurs basically has always had a large Jewish following and a Jewish board of directors. The fans mean nothing sinister and if it allows them a good singalong (something severely lacking at their north London neighbours) then so be it.

The only thing that Spurs fans can really be accused of is thinking that Spurs are better than they really are.

But Jessica noticed something much more sinister: Some Leeds fans singing “Spurs are on their way to Belsen”.

Jessica writes: “But the Leeds fans went nowhere around White Hart Lane without being chaperoned by about twenty police officers per fan. Most were singing these chants in full view of the police. Who did nothing. No warning. No arrests. Nothing. What did the Tottenham door staff do, as the Leeds fans entered through the turnstiles, singing about gas chambers? Nothing. It was easier to keep their heads down and shut up.”

I have to admit that I was safely tucked away surreptitiously among the Spurs fans so I was immune to this chanting while biting my nails everytime Spurs won one of their many freekicks on the edge of Leeds United’s penalty area. But it doesn’t surprise me.

Leeds United have come a long way. When I was at Leeds University I used to go to every Leeds home game and always used to pass a member of the National Front selling the current issue of its magazine. Once I encountered a Leeds fan with a swastika tattoo.

These days there is nothing like that at Elland Road, just a good feeling of being surrounded by friendly, down-to-earth Yorkshire folk. Elland Road is one of the best places in Britain where whites, blacks, asians, Muslims, Jews and Christians sit down in unity to cheer their team on. There is no sectarianism or racism. 

Lucas Radebe (golplanet)

But Leeds on the road is a different affair.

When I went to see Millwall v Leeds a few years ago the Leeds fans booed their way through the minute’s silence for George Best, so much so that the referee had to call an end to the silent respect for a once great player after just 30 seconds. And on the way to the train afterwards a Leeds fan was literally singing the horrendous Munich 1958 plane crash song right in front of a policeman.  

This is all just a minority of fans and Leeds is not an inherently racist club. There is no racism ever about black or asian players and Lucas Radebe will always be loved by every Leeds fan for his commitment to and passion for Leeds United (the Keiser Chiefs, huge Leeds fans themselves, named themselves after his South African club). 

Leeds have always had a hooligan element; Leeds thugs are known as the Leeds Service Crew, also known as the Risk. But while the hooliganism and racism has mainly gone there is still an element that prevails. 

There is probably not much Leeds can do about this element. Now it is probably down to society to educate more about the horrors of the Holocaust and Holocaust Memorial Day this wednesday is a good start but not enough.

Maybe Ken Bates could have a say in his programme notes at the Leeds v Spurs replay on February 3rd about the sinister chanting that Jessica heard.