Israel Stories

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Football Yid

Small and huddled in the crowd, swarms of men in uniform standing and chanting Yid and Yiddo. I should be scared, I should run, hide. Our history is ridden with deep pits, where people have sunk or been pushed to very depths of darkness. In almost every country the screams of Yid or Yiddo have echoed down narrow lanes and in open town squares. Today I stand, surrounded by uniformed men shouting Yid and Yiddo and how do feel? Elated!

I rise to my feet and scream at the top of voice in echo, Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiddddddddddddddddoooooooooo! Because this isn’t Europe, this isn’t a pogrom, it isn’t an anti-Semitic rally, this is the Blumfield Stadium in Tel Aviv and uniformed men are wearing replica football kits. This is Tottehnam Hotspur from North London playing a European Football Cup qualifying game against Hapoel Tel Aviv.

I suppose it started as an anti-Semitic chant. Because of Tottenham Hotspur’s (Spurs)large Jewish support, rival fans called then the Yids. This would have been totally unacceptable except that it was Jews. See, if the supporters were Indian or Muslims, people may have been more sensitive to the political correctness of the loony liberals who ban Christmas lest it upset the Muslims. But Yids was OK. Harmless fun etc.

But in the great British tradition of 'if you can't beat them join them', the Spurs fans started to call themselves Yids. Not the Jewish ones, the non-Jewish ones. Suddenly and overnight Spurs became the Yid army, fans watching their beloved team play in Europe had T-shirts with Yids on Tour or flags with their home town like Chingford Yids, Barnet Yids etc.

And so with the best of them, Jews and non-Jews in an unholy alliance, chanted, without any hint (?) of anti-Jewish feeling, Yiiiiiiidddddddddddddddddddooooooooo!

Looking around the stadium I don’t think I've ever seen so many kippot at a Spurs march. In fact I don’t remember ever seeing a kippa at an Spurs match. But here there were also men with beards and velvet kippot, knitted kippot and even a black hat.

The Yids had come home to the Holy land. This time it was ‘Yid’ against Yid and it wasn’t Channuka!
One Israeli sports reporter commented on the anti-Semitism being displayed to the Hapoel teams and their fans. He said that the screams of Yido chilled him to the bone, until one Hapoel fan (being interviewed) told a very confused reporter that in fact they were calling themselves Yido and if he cares to look where the chants were coming from, he would have noticed that these guys were wearing kippot!

I tried to explain this Yiddo phenomena to American friends but they couldn’t get it, and good for them.
Now I am not going to discuss the rights and wrongs of actually using the term 'Yid', because it is still used outside the realm of football as a very disturbing insult, but for 90 minutes plus extra time I can live with it.
The game itself was a little boring but the feeling of unity among the Jewish people was phenomenal. Singing and chanting together, secular, religious, ultra-religious and non-Jew together as one people with one cause.
The Hapoel fans couldn’t get it, couldn’t understand that on the field we have no religion no region, no differences. Football; the great unifier, where the fans become one, standing together. Trouble is they are normally unified against the other fans and that's when all the fighting starts.

And something even more significant happened. The UK was united in it's support of Israel the other night as it battled and beat Russia. For Israel it was just a victory, for England it was the resurrection of their dream to move forward in the Euro 2008 cup.

No one shouted Yiddo at that game, I bet. And if they had, it would have been anti-Semitic. Subtle difference.
Anyway, regardless that I am Yid, I am a Tottenham Yid and I am an Israeli Tottenham Yid.

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