I was there when the controversy started, I was there when the controversy was at its worst and I was there again on the 2nd of March where it continued. Tottenham Vs Arsenal. That’s it… the cries of ‘Yid Army’ rung around Wembley.
The word ‘Yid’ is a term used within the Jewish Community to simply mean fellow. It is often used when a Jew does not know the name of another. However, the term ‘Yid’ was adopted by Tottenham fans over 25 years ago to tackle racial abuse they were receiving by away supporters. From here this became a characteristic of Tottenham Hotspur Football club which brought non-Jewish Spurs fan together with Jewish supporters as they sought to fight against racism.
But, a few years back, controversy began over the use of the terms ‘Yid, Yid Army, Yids and Yiddo’ by Tottenham fans at football matches. The World Jewish Congress and Board of Deputies of British Jews believed that ‘the innocence of the word ‘yid’ once carried as a simple translation for Jew, has long disappeared’. But what have do Spurs fans have to say about this?
Ryan Gold, who’s Grandad was Jewish, expressed how Spurs fans embrace the term rather than abuse it.
“It’s a name for our fans, we don’t mean it in a bad way, we embrace the word. I don’t know the Jewish history behind it, but we’ve had abuse of being called Jews for years, so we adopted it to embrace the it.”
Tottenham fan Finley Chung also stated he only uses it in context to support the team.
“I do use the Yid Army chant but in context to support the side, I know it is a term used for Jewish people, but it has a strong connection with our club, and it is part of the heritage.”
The Jewish Community, however, believes that the club ‘must take a long overdue stand against fans using the word Yid’.
But, a spokesman for Tottenham Hotspur responded by saying that ‘no Tottenham fan had ever used the term with any deliberate intent to cause offence but expressed that they remain wholly committed to ensure that a zero-tolerance position is adopted in respect of anti-Semitic behaviour.’
Back in 2014, three Spurs fan were arrested for using the ‘Yid’ word during a Europa League game, despite this, the ‘cases were discontinued by the Crown Prosecution Service’. Following this, the Metropolitan Police stated they were no longer going to be arresting Tottenham fans for chanting the term ‘Yid’ at matches. Let’s be honest, with the whole crowd chanting ‘Yid Army’ every 10 seconds it was highly unlikely they were ever going to arrest us all. However, the police did make it clear that any ‘any anti-Semitic songs directed at Spurs fans, is an offence and is different from chants sung by Spurs fans’.
Another Tottenham fan, Darren England, I promise we are not related just coincidental we have the same surname, seemed to know quite a bit about the background of the term ‘Yid’.
‘We vocally adopted it in the 80s due to the constant anti-Semitic chanting from the away fans. We turned the meaning on its head and made it mean strength and loyalty, rather than an offensive term against us. We use it to identify ourselves in the same way Arsenal call themselves the Gooners, we are the Yids’.
Every Tottenham fan I spoke to reiterated the fact that the word ‘Yid’ when used by Spurs fans at a game is not malicious or with intention to offend the Jewish Community or anyone generally. A majority of fans admitted they felt proud when chanting ‘Yid Army’ as they wanted to show off their roots and heritage. On the other hand, some did react more frustratedly to the controversy saying how they believe the argument is being ‘exaggerated’ and wanted to reinforce, that no Spurs fan uses these terms to offend, and some felt it was actually offensive to them being accused of using it in that manner.
Lilywhites fan Ken, who is 36, self-confessed how he was confused that people take the use of the term offensively.
‘I’m honestly puzzled that people take it as something offensive, which it obviously isn’t meant by that. It is chanted to empower a word that is used against the club, fans and affiliations with the club over the years’.
Kieran Blackler, also expressed similar views to Ken, suggesting the controversy is now being exaggerated.
‘I personally think the controversy is being exaggerated and I don’t think we should stop using the chant as it is not an attack on anyone’s religion. It is a way to stop rival clubs using the term to offend us and the Jewish Community in a derogatory way’.
Regardless of the World Jewish Congress and the Jewish Community being rightly or wrongly upset and angry about the use of the word ‘Yid’ by Tottenham fans, since the issue has arised about using the term it has now been used more than ever. Not even 10 seconds goes by without hearing a fan chant it while at a Spurs game. I’ve been going to Tottenham all my life, and I’ve noticed it is being used more and more every time.
I believe it is still being used to embrace our history and culture, however, now it is being used to prove a point, that we can sing what we want and can embrace our clubs history in the way many want to. Whether this is right nor wrong is debatable, nevertheless, I after being there for years and being there on the 2nd of March, I don’t think the use of the word by Tottenham fans is going to stop anytime soon.