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Anti-Israel and Antisemitic Campaigns Fail to Stop Game

Tottenham Hotspur will face AS Roma in a football (real football, or ‘soccer’) match, titled the “I-Tech Cup,” at Haifa’s Sammy Ofer Stadium on Saturday night, July 30.  Both teams have loyal fan bases in Israel. The ‘Israel Spurs Official Supporters’ Club’ customarily meets on match days in Petah Tikva and AS Roma’s fan club in Israel is ‘Roma Club Gerusalemme.’ This will be the Spurs’ seventh appearance in Israel; the last one was in November 2007 when they played Hapoel Tel Aviv in the UEFA Cup.\

The announcement of the game unleashed a strong and furious effort in London, Rome and elsewhere to stop it from taking place. The Islamic Human Rights Commission, based in London, coordinated a letter writing campaign opposing the Spurs visit to Israel. The Italian branch of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement also called on AS Roma not to play matches in Israel, as did the team’s Fedayn Fan Club. A series of angry, hateful Tweets, letters, posters, leaflets and speeches resulted, directed not only at Israel and Zionism, but at Jews as well. These Tweets have included:

“Tottenham-HELL-Hotspur and any other sports teams that are enraged with sports activities with yahweh monsters of yisraHELL are indeed promoting the apartheid system and supporting FAKErael atrocities against Palestinians.”

 “why? need to go? They’re still abusing, butchering  Palestine.”

“Why do we need to go there These occupied lands This land is stolen land by occupiers.”

“We will chant those Nazi anthems this season to remind Levy …of the Holohoax and killing of innocent Palestinians …babies burned in cradles ..women shot and the NAZIs occupying Palestine.”

Not to be outdone, former Tottenham coach and now AS Roma boss Jose Mourinho has recently drawn comparisons between the suffering in Ukraine and in Palestine.

Tottenham has long been considered a “Jewish club,” attracting the support of Eastern European immigrants who settled in London’s East End in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Although games were usually played on Shabbat in the early 1900’s, observant fans justified their attendance at White Hart Lane, the Spurs’ old home pitch, by purchasing tickets in advance and traveling to the stadium by electric tram.  Unlike buses with combustion engines, they saw this as permissible – sort of like a horizontal “Shabbat elevator.” Roughly 100 years ago a letter published in the Jewish Chronicle noted, “It was possible to be in synagogue until the end of musaf, to nip home for a plate of lokshen soup and then board a tram from Aldgate to White Hart Lane.”

This association of the team and its Jewish supporters has led to some ugly moments through the years as fans of opposing teams resorted to increasingly bigoted chants, especially from Chelsea and West Ham. When the Spurs defeated Chelsea to win the FA Cup in 1967, an appalling degree of hate speech was heard emanating from the Chelsea end of the stadium. In the 1970’s, things got even worse, especially when the Spurs and their followers visited other cities and heard such things as “I’ve never felt more like gassing the Jews…,” “one man went to gas, went to gas a Yiddo…,” “Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz, Hitler’s gonna gas ’em again.” These were often accompanied by stiff-armed Nazi salutes and hissing, meant to suggest escaping gas. More often than not, some variation of “Yid” was used.

Although Jews make up a relatively small percentage of the team’s supporters (some estimates put it at just five percent), Spurs fans responded by embracing the name, with the intent of rendering the term impotent. They began dancing and singing “We are the Yids, we are the Yids!” and some even flew Israeli flags from the grandstand. Spurs supporters have called themselves and the team “The Yid Army” and “Yiddos.” Opposing fans used the term derogatorily, however Spurs fans elevated it to a badge of honor. Most Jewish Tottenham fans wince and tolerate it, rather than embrace it, and a movement has been underway to end its use. However, the Oxford English Dictionary recently defined “Yid” and “Yiddo” as fans of the Hotspurs.

Perhaps the Spurs have grown used to this history of obscene, hateful diatribes. To their credit, both AS Roma and Tottenham ignored all of the noise protesting the game. On Friday, July 29, the Spurs will hold an open practice in Petah Tikva. AS Roma and Tottenham have also agreed to hold off the start of Saturday night’s match until 9:15 pm, local time, after Shabbat, honoring the requests from thousands of observant fans.

About the Author
Robert L. Kern has served as Director of Marketing & Communications for several "American Friends," Zionist and Jewish organizations. He is a former President of the American Jewish Public Relations Society and a member of the Executive Committee of the American Jewish Press Association. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.
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