The Y Word

My family have been dedicated Spurs fans for decades. Case in point: at a cousin’s wedding, as well as making the Toast to the Queen my brother was also given the honour of announcing that Spurs had won that afternoon’s game, to loud cheers from the 350 guests – and probably the bride as well!

When I was about 18 I finally decided to go along to a match and see what all the fuss was about. Walking down Tottenham High Road with hundreds of fans all singing together, the excitement was contagious; the atmosphere in the stadium was electric as we chanted and sang at the players until they won the game, scoring two goals in extra time. It was only a minor cup game against a lower league team, but that didn’t matter – I was hooked.

Spurs have historically had a large Jewish fan-base because a lot of Jews lived in the area. When Spurs fans then found themselves subjected to antisemitic abuse and called ‘Yids’, they adopted the word and have used it ever since as a term of pride to describe themselves and the team.

I am not writing to represent Jewish Spurs fans in general; but I, my family and the many other Jewish fans we know are all in agreement: we are Yids. In the Spurs fan sense, but also in the literal sense, as all the word Yid really means is Jew, in… wait for it… Yiddish. As confirmed by my German-born grandmother (incidentally, zero interest in football!)

In today’s overly politically correct world (read: PC about all the wrong things), the issue of Spurs fans’ use of the word Yid has sparked a national debate in the UK about whether it makes non-Jewish fans antisemites, or if it doesn’t, whether it encourages anti-Semitism from other teams’ fans. The club explained in a statement “Our fans historically adopted the chant as a defence mechanism in order to own the term and thereby deflect anti-Semitic abuse.” Even the Prime Minister David Cameron weighed in, sensibly pointing out that it depends on the context: “There’s a difference between Spurs fans self-describing themselves as Yids and someone calling someone a Yid as an insult… Hate speech should be prosecuted – but only when it’s motivated by hate.

This same logic would apply to the word Jew as well – used on its own or in a positive way there’s no problem. It’s only once you add dirty/money-grabbing/world-dominating in front of it, that it becomes antisemitic.

If an antisemite wants to abuse a Jew, whether he uses the word Jew or Yid is irrelevant. The sentiment is the same, and the Jew is still Jewish, whether they’re open about it or not.

There are few places in London where a Jew would feel comfortable being open about their religion; two that come to mind are: 1. Golders Green Road. And 2. White Hart Lane stadium. Only one of those has seen its share of antisemitic attacks. Clue: it’s not the football stadium.

Jews I know who’ve worn their kippot at White Hart Lane stadium have only ever been on the receiving end of warm ‘Yiddo’ calls by the other fans , delighted to meet ‘real’, ‘original’ Yids; when the chant is usually reserved as the highest praise for a player when they’ve just scored a goal. Or if that player is the popular striker Jermain Defoe, the crowd bursts into the simple but effective “Jermain Defoe, he’s Yiddo!” song.

Telling Spurs fans not to say Yid could almost be compared to advising Jews not to wear a kippa or a Magen David in public – ironic, considering White Hart Lane must be the most tolerant, diverse stadium in the country.

Meanwhile if you want the latest Spurs score, just type Yid into Google and it will be the first result!

About the Author
Mizrachi Jew. Israeli-in-Progress. But I only drink tea with milk.