Skip to content

Antisemitism at White Hart Lane turns spotlight on West Ham fans

Nov 26, 2012, 1:42 PM EDT

Tottenham Hotspur's Bale scores a goal against West Ham United during their English Premier League soccer match in London Reuters

Filling the void left when the Mark Clattenburg complaint was dismissed, English soccer has another controversy on its hands. This time, antisemitism’s focus after London Metropolitan police received a complaint about fan behavior following Sunday’s 3-0 loss at Tottenham Hotspur.

Two West Ham fans were arrested during at White Hart Lane after using Nazi-style salutes. One fan, a West Ham season pass holder, has been banned by the club.

There’s more. This, from the Guardian, highlights fans’ willingness to leverage the mid-week stabbing of a Spurs’ supporter in Rome:

Spurs’ 3-1 victory on Sunday was overshadowed by West Ham supporters apparently mocking the Holocaust and chanting a song about Adolf Hitler. They were also heard singing “Viva Lazio” and “Can we stab you every week?” just three days after an attack on Tottenham fans in Rome, prior to the London club’s Europa League group match against Lazio, in which one fan, Ashley Mills, was stabbed in the head and leg.

This type of a behavior is nothing new to Spurs fans. Tottenham Hotspur has long enjoyed strong support from the Jewish community, support that has made the club target of this kind of perverse derision.

As Anna Kessel wrote for The Observer in 2007, the abuse is both ubiquitous and complicated by an artifact of fan desire to fight the problem:

Abuse has been heard at Premier League grounds from Arsenal to Wigan. A complicating factor is Tottenham’s close association with the problem – whether they are playing or not, many of the chants are directed at the club or their former players. Their fans’ self-identification as ‘Yids’ – a derogatory word for a Jew – is problematic. Last week fans and representatives of the Tottenham Supporters Trust, Maccabi GB and Kick It Out debated the issue. Supporters say the term is used as a ‘badge of honour’, which aligns Jews and non-Jews in a proud allegiance to the club, but campaigners say it provokes and legitimises abuse from rival fans. As both sets of fans often interchange ‘Yid’ for ‘Jew’, or words depicting a relationship to Israel or Palestine, the demarcation lines separating football from religion, race, politics and anti-Semitism are decidedly blurred.

That background it doesn’t condone the actions of idiots. All clubs have some sort of history. Every big team enjoys support from a variety of demographics. Unfortunately, that just gives malicious fans more to grasp at when they’re intent on saying something, anything to fulfill their poorly defined obligations.

Guardian writer Jacob Steinberg, speaking as a Jewish West Ham supporter, provided some more context for Sunday’s events, sharing his experiences in the Hammers’ stands:

Antisemitism and racism has existed at West Ham for years. Before a play-off semi-final at Ipswich in 2004, I heard a chant of “Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz, Hitler’s gonna gas them again”. No one did anything. There is a chant mocking Spurs fans for having no foreskins that ends with a cry of “F—— Jew”.

People call Carlton Cole a black bastard. When Jermain Defoe missed a last-minute chance during a draw with Burnley in 2003, the person in front of me lost the plot, kicking the chair in front of him and screaming racial abuse. During a match against Everton in 2010, Cole missed a late sitter, prompting one fan to bellow that he was a “f—— n—–“. He’s still there every week.

This behavior isn’t exclusive to West Ham fans. Whenever people put themselves in situations where their passions can be exposed, we see some of passions are horrible.

Today, the story again turns to soccer, and again, it’s touched on England. The issue far transcends sport, so it’s likely something as inconsequential as the English Premier League can do anything to solve the problem. All the league can do is get as far away from it as possible, erect a bubble, and hope in vain that it can pretend the issue doesn’t effect the sport.

Taking away season passes can’t hurt.

Latest Posts
  1. Amid thrown fireworks, Torino wins first Turin derby in 20 years

    Apr 26, 2015, 11:43 AM EDT

    Torino Getty Images

    Torino picked up its first win over Juventus in 20 years, but the fans kept it from being a truly happy day.

  2. Watch Live: Arsenal vs Chelsea (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Apr 26, 2015, 10:29 AM EDT

    WengerMourinho AP

    There is no featured striker on the field for Chelsea, with Jose Mourinho instead selecting six midfielders to interchange.

  3. Everton 3-0 Manchester United: Toffees score early, snuff out visiting attack

    Apr 26, 2015, 10:20 AM EDT

    Everton Getty Images

    Manchester United had nothing to offer as Everton won its third straight against the Red Devils at Goodison Park.

  4. Who were the biggest snubs in PFA’s Premier League Team of the Season selections?

    Apr 26, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    Swansea City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    The PFA have announced their team of the season. But should these 10 players have been involved?

  5. PFA Team of the Year announced: 6 Blues lead the way

    Apr 26, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT

    Chelsea Getty Images

    The likely title winners took up over half of the team of the season, marking their domination.

  6. Belgrade rivalry again results in riots, injuries

    Apr 26, 2015, 8:49 AM EDT

    Belgrade Getty Images

    Fans clashed with each other and with police as objects became weapons and smoke filled the pitch.

  7. Watch Live: Everton vs Manchester United (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Apr 26, 2015, 7:47 AM EDT

    Fellaini Getty Images

    Marouane Fellaini returns to his former club on a much higher note than last season’s visit.

  8. MLS roundup: 20 goals in 4 games Saturday night — WATCH THEM ALL!

    Apr 26, 2015, 12:44 AM EDT

    Tyler Deric, Houston Dynamo Getty Images

    It was a bad night to be a goalkeeper. A really, really bad night.

  9. MLS Snapshot: Vancouver Whitecaps 1-2 D.C. United

    Apr 26, 2015, 12:36 AM EDT

    Michael Farfan, D.C. United & Octavio Rivero, Vancouver Whitecaps Michael Farfan, D.C. United & Octavio Rivero, Vancouver Whitecaps

    Winning on the road in MLS is always impressive. Doing it 3,000 miles from home and with a five-man bench is downright remarkable.

  10. MLS Snapshot: Houston Dynamo 4-4 Sporting Kansas City

    Apr 25, 2015, 10:55 PM EDT

    Jalil Anibaba, Sporting Kansas City Getty Images

    MLS Game of the Year? Probably. It had a little bit of everything, including some amazing goals you HAVE to see.

  11. MLS Snapshot: New England Revolution 4-0 Real Salt Lake

    Apr 25, 2015, 9:42 PM EDT

    Juan Agudelo, New England Revolution Juan Agudelo, New England Revolution

    Good luck stopping the Revs, now that they’ve got a head of steam behind them. Another Cup run looks likely.

  12. MLS Snapshot: Columbus Crew SC 4-1 Philadelphia Union

    Apr 25, 2015, 9:33 PM EDT

    Ethan Finlay, Columbus Crew SC Getty Images

    Crew SC’s four-headed attacking monster completely shredded the Union’s defense. The Black and Gold are very for real.

  13. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Barcelona keep pressure on Real Madrid; Inter Milan top Roma

    Apr 25, 2015, 7:44 PM EDT

    Lionel Messi & Neymar, FC Barcelona Getty Images

    As long as Barcelona keep winning, the La Liga title is theirs. The way they’re going at the moment, they might just win out.

  14. WATCH: The 2 Robbies discuss which Premier League teams will be relegated

    Apr 25, 2015, 6:59 PM EDT

    Robbie Earle & Robbie Mustoe, The 2 Robbies Robbie Earle & Robbie Mustoe, The 2 Robbies

    With four teams separated by two points for the final relegation place, it’s becoming an absolute dogfight. The 2 Robbies break it down.

  15. Pearson: “It doesn’t matter how you win games,” as Leicester inch closer to safety

    Apr 25, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    Nigel Pearson, Leicester City FC Nigel Pearson, Leicester City FC

    When in a relegation dogfight, win any way you can. That’s the message from Nigel Pearson, and that’s what Leicester City have done.

  16. Pellegrini: Victory over Aston Villa “one of our worst games of the season”

    Apr 25, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City FC Getty Images

    Play poorly and win, or play well and lose? You can’t always have it both ways, which benefitted Man City on Saturday.

  17. Sherwood: Aston Villa “controlled the game” against Manchester City

    Apr 25, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    Tim Sherwood, Aston Villa FC Getty Images

    Sherwood’s men were certainly hard done by away to Manchester City. It’s hard not to agree with the Villa boss.

  18. Promotion Watch: Watford officially promoted; disaster for Middlesbrough

    Apr 25, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Fulham v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    With Watford officially promoted, who’s next? (Hint: It won’t be Boro.)

Featured video

Should Chelsea be more entertaining?