There are plenty of rude and abusive words in the Oxford English Dictionary and it is irresistibly tempting to apply one or two to the clutch of Tottenham Hotspur fans who claimed, mystifyingly, a spurious victory over the inclusion of the definition of ‘Yiddo’ alongside them last week.
An idiot (n. A person with extremely low intelligence, a stupid person, a fool, a blockhead, a person of weak intellect maintained as an amusement) or two sought triumph in the OED’s new listing of ‘Yiddo’ to include ‘a supporter of, or player for, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club’ as if it somehow justified chanting that has been consistently condemned by Jewish bodies.
A moron (n. A stupid or slow-witted person, a fool) or two decided that definitions in a dictionary — ‘Yid’ also now mentions Spurs — constituted a new excuse for an overwhelmingly non-Jewish band of supporters to keep singing words that offend and upset parts of the Jewish community in this country under cover of the idea that they are reclaiming the words for that same community.
A misguided section of Tottenham fans have attempted to reclaim the use of the ‘Y-word’
A dipstick (n. A stupid or inept person) or two celebrated as if the dictionary’s decision was a merry charter for them to ignore the litany of objections from the World Jewish Congress and the Community Security Trust, to name but two, to what they are doing.
To their credit, the club themselves did not join in the rejoicing. They pointed out that they have never embraced the use of ‘Yid’ or ‘Yiddo’, that they do not refer to the words on the club’s media channels and nor do they use the terms in any of their official merchandising. That will matter little to fans, who will chant the words with renewed gusto.
Spurs, still trying to deal with the aftermath of Dele Alli’s Snapchat video mocking a man of Asian appearance over the coronavirus epidemic, must be horrified by the glut of attention the OED has drawn to an issue that is deeply uncomfortable for Tottenham and which has been left in an awkward abeyance these past few years as they sit on their hands and hope it goes away. It isn’t going away.
I accept the OED’s logic for its updating of the definition of ‘Yid’ and its inclusion of ‘Yiddo’ and its insistence that the dictionary provides a historical record of linguistic usage. But that does not alter the fact there are dangers in what it has done that might easily inflame the race problems that are coming more to the fore in the English game.
Spurs had just dealt with the storm created by Dele Alli while on his winter break
Chief among those dangers is this: some Spurs fans are celebrating because they think that the OED definition somehow legitimises their use of ‘Yid’ or ‘Yiddo’ by placing it purely in a football context. But if you use that logic, then it will also empower opposition fans to do the same and allow them to claim there are no racial undertones to their abuse.
Many Spurs fans make the point that their use of the Y-words, in their view, is inclusive and benign and that it is the fans of other teams who turn the words to poison and who use it as an excuse to level the worst kinds of racist abuse at Tottenham supporters.
But if Spurs fans are serious about the idea that they call themselves ‘Yids’ and ‘Yiddos’ to reclaim the terms from racists, then there are a series of questions they ought to ask themselves beginning with the point comedian, David Baddiel, made recently.
‘The vast majority of fans of the club, including those who self-designate as Y-words, are not Jewish and therefore have no right of “reclamation”,’ said Baddiel. ‘What it will weirdly give succour to is the sense that Tottenham fans, rather than Jews, “own” this race-hate word for Jews, a word that blackshirts painted on shops in the East End of London.’
Baddiel is routinely shouted down by some Spurs fans, who have grown adept at telling Jews like him what they should and should not be offended by. That kind of reaction has become more commonplace as the type of racist behaviour exposed in the BBC’s Shame in the Game documentary last week sweeps across English football.
There is this, too: if Spurs fans really are trying to ‘reclaim’ these words from the purveyors of race hate, the sad truth is that they are not succeeding. The sad truth, in fact, is that the problem is getting worse. They say they want to defuse the issue but it is intensifying.
Comedian David Baddiel has often clashed with Tottenham supporters over use of the word
In the Seventies and Eighties, opposition fans directed foul, disgusting songs at Spurs supporters that referenced concentration camps and the atrocities carried out there.
As Spurs fans know better than anyone, many opposition fans still do that. They still hiss to mimic what they think is the sound of gas. Shame in the Game showed examples of Chelsea supporters engaging in that behaviour. They are not alone in that and it should be punished severely.
It is also evidence, regrettably, that reclamation is not working. Reclamation is actually turning into normalisation and the OED inclusion last week has accelerated that. It has normalised Spurs fans — the large majority of whom are not Jewish — trying to reclaim pejorative terms that are not theirs to reclaim. And it has normalised thugs and low-life from other clubs using those terms to try to wound Spurs fans.
In the current toxic environment that pervades the English game, the abuse is not abating. It is becoming more extreme. More fans are using the Y-words as hate terms to the profound discomfort of large sections of the Jewish community already alarmed by new surges of anti-Semitism.
Surely, any fool (n. A person who behaves or thinks imprudently or unwisely; a silly person) should be able to see that.
Ajax goodbye is a lesson to English fans
When a star player from one of England’s leading clubs leaves to play elsewhere, it is often the way that he is branded a traitor, a mercenary and a disgrace to the shirt and told never to darken the door of the stadium again or else he’ll get what’s coming to him.
When it was announced Hakim Ziyech was leaving Ajax for Chelsea, the club released tribute videos to him and the fans thanked him for what he had done for them.
Just a thought but maybe we could learn something here.
Hakim Ziyech was given a respectful ‘thank you’ by Ajax ahead of his summer move to Chelsea
City deserve ban but UEFA rules are warped
If the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejects Manchester City’s appeal and rules that their two-year ban from the Champions League for committing ‘serious breaches’ of UEFA’s club licensing and Financial Fair Play regulations should stand, it will be hard to argue that they do not deserve their punishment.
If the charges are upheld, it will mean City were playing by one set of rules while most of their competitors were at a disadvantage.
But there is a more important issue to consider, too. Because the FFP rules are warped. They are twisted so that they can rescue clubs such as Manchester United and AC Milan from the self-inflicted mediocrity that serial mismanagement has plunged them into.
Manchester City deserve their punishment but are also the victim of an unfair set of rules
By linking spending to revenue, they are twisted to prevent the upward mobility of clubs such as City and of any club who try to force their way into the traditional elite.
Friday’s punishment of City is a classic case of how the elite make sure their cosy club remains a closed shop. The insulting part — the funny part — is the lie that FFP is designed to improve the overall financial health of European football. If UEFA wanted to do that — if they really cared about other clubs — they would introduce a salary cap and a revenue-sharing system similar to the ones that operate in American team sports.
But the top clubs are too greedy to entertain that. So they won’t.
It is an awful lot easier to penalise ambitious, well-run clubs such as Manchester City instead and pretend it is for the good of all when, in fact, it is just a ruse to help the rich get richer.