WHAT do you make of this?
NOW, if you are among the doof-brained minority of Arsenal fans who have ever chanted ‘Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz, Hitler’s gonna gas them again’, you’ve probably clicked on the wrong page. Although I would love to dissuade you from the idea that these chants are all a bit of fun, this post is ultimately unlikely to change your ridiculous behaviour. If you were a Man City fan, you’d cackle about Munich. If you were a Spurs fan, you’d probably sing about Emmanuel Adebayor’s pop washing elephants. There’s nothing for you here. Go away.
Trouble is, the same it’s-only-a-joke crew are unlikely to be swayed to a new opinion by David Baddiel’s don’t say the Y word film released last week. More likely the ones with the most to learn from it will snigger and say something like: oi Lampard, there’s a word people use about players like you… .faaat. Ha.
For all its worthy intentions – and don’t think I am not sympathetic to its aims – the film doesn’t do enough to address the crunch confusion on the issue within London’s age-old football rivalries. Maybe that’s why the y-word has seemed louder than ever from the stands in the days following the release of the film. Aggressively by Arsenal and Chelsea fans. Even louder still by Tottenham’s own fans. ‘Yid Army’ chorused around the north London derby the other day. People didn’t say much about it, because the 3-3 draw was so spectacular to watch.
While disliked by many older Spurs fans, it is not a new thing that a younger generation of the club’s supporters – including some Jewish fans – use the y-word for themselves. The idea has been to reclaim the word, to diffuse the threat and aggression. Whether this idea has any merit or not, whether it has been successful or not, Baddiel’s film fails to explain why Spurs fans often differentiate between their use of the word and its more menacing use from opposing terraces. That’s core to the whole debate, a confusion that needs to be tackled and explained at square one. Otherwise you will get comments like the words that once tumbled out of the mouth of Ken Bates, a one time chairman at Chelsea (Baddiel’s club): “It is hard to criticise Chelsea fans for calling Tottenham fans something they call themselves.”
Black rappers who claim to have reclaimed the word nigger on their records might disagree with that logic.
You will find that most people who go to football matches, thankfully, will tell you that singing about concentration camps, Hitler and imitating hissing gas, all of which gets rarer every season, is completely beyond the pale.
The same people will not all agree that this is simple step from using the y-word.
Baddiel may have a fair point that the offence and hurt caused by using ‘yid’ and ‘yiddo’ can cause is not universally understood and he is right to highlight that. The n-word, for example, is far more revered. But is Gary Lineker’s turn here the best way of investigating that aspect of the debate? With his swaying shoulders I’m-a-lovable-broadcaster smile, his potted history of anti-semitism feels more than a little patronising. You see, it’s hard to get serious and put on your serious voice after all of those mindless crisp adverts, the ones where a golden-booted sporting hero markets a fatty foodstuff hardly compatible with the field that made him famous. I may be wrong, maybe he was ploughing through the cheese and onion during Italia ’90. I may be wrong. Maybe.
Frank Lampard toils admirably with the autocue but again he mutters something about Spurs fans calling themselves the Y-word without further explanation. Naaaaah, it’s just racist. I agree with him – but I want to know more.
And what happened when they turned to Arsenal? Kieran Gibbs does a smart job and he could easily be a recognisable face in the Premiership and international football in the future… but let’s be honest, he’s not quite as famous as World Cup players like Ledley King and Lampard yet. When the call came from Baddiel or a Baddiel assistant, was nobody else at the club free? Cesc Fabregas would have added more gravitas, and if it had to be a young Englishman – us thickos want English people to tell us things, yah? – why not Jack Wilshere or Theo Walcott?
Similarly, who is the Asian player who compares the y-word to the p-word? I’d have to look that up for you – and that’s a whole another film. In London school teams and park kickabouts, I’ve never noticed a massive skill deficit among Asian teenagers. It’s amazing there aren’t more in our professional football teams.
Yet for all the silly things about this film, the basic failure to explain the complexities of the debate within the Spurs support throbs untreated throughout. Tottenham fans haven’t enjoyed feeling lectured at, it’s more complicated than 30 seconds of YouTube and the glaring failure to untangle the full debate undermines the whole project. None of the people who meant to click on this page want to hear racist or aggressive songs in football stadiums, but when celebrating their heroes – like the way Lineker once was at White Hart Lane, sometimes himself serenaded with the y-word – it’s up to Spurs fans to decide how they show their appreciation.