A change of pace this week. Regular readers will remember The Debate column, which expired roughly a year ago to be replaced by Five Points. The Debate was comprehensive: one topic, as long as it took. And in the end, it took longer than all day, which is why it got phased out.
But there are some subjects that don't deserve to be lumped in with weekly paranoia about the reporting of Manchester City and Liverpool, or the standard baseless accusations that this newspaper favours Manchester United, just because we praise them when they win. And that was what it was going to be this week: the usual. And then something happened.
The Yid Army debate, happened, on the back of Monday's column. Now that's something we can get out teeth into. So this one's old school. A single topic and I'll run with it until live football intervenes. But of course one thing never changes. There will always be music. Here's Tottenham's finest to start us off. . The mighty Jah Wobble: bass guitar legend and Tottenham fan. Five points up – oh no, it's not.
Derby fans sing 'sheep shag army' in response to the taunts from opposition fans. That doesn't condone bestiality any more than 'Yid Army' constitutes racist behaviour. Steve1000, Nottingham.
True, but I don't think you'll find that sheep shagging has been the problem for humanity that anti-Semitism has been over the centuries, and might not require the same level of care. It's been a problem for sheep, obviously.
If I called Lesley King [sic] or Didier Drogba, a black man that is not racist, or hurtful, it is a fact. If I called either of them a f****** black man, it would still be factual, but it would be racist as it would be done with venom and hatred. Wotspur, Weybridge.
Yes, and I acknowledged that point in the sentence: 'Now we all know that a supporter prepared to sing the line 'he hates the f****** yids' is going to have a hard time convincing any court, or reasonable person, that the words are not racially motivated.' I understand the difference between Tottenham's use and Chelsea's. I would merely argue there is cause and effect. And by the way, I think what would tick Ledley King off most of all is that he was one of your finest players, and you don't appear to know his name.
Ledley King is a club legend for Tottenham, who were the focus of Martin Samuel's column
You wrote: 'To challenge this, it needs the club to take a stand. But what club wishes to get on the wrong side of its most vocal, and probably loyal, supporters?' But isn't that what Chelsea are now doing? Basil the dog, Kent.
Yes, and I think it's very noble of them. They could easily duck out and make it a matter for the Football Association.
I agree with your sentiments on this. My stance is if you defend the use of a word, you cease to have any legitimate grievance when others use it too. If you found the word truly offensive, you would not justify its use by anyone. BarryBwana, Canada.
I can see both sides here, Barry, so I'll stick with what I wrote on November 12, 2012, in a previous item about the use of the word 'yid' at football:
'Lenny Bruce was a brilliant comedian but life never panned out as he envisaged. He would up the house lights, round his audience verbally into n******, kykes, wops and spics and then conclude that it was the suppression of the word that gave it the power. He suggested President Kennedy use the N-word to every black man he saw. 'Until n***** didn't mean anything anymore; then you could never make some six-year-old black kid cry because somebody called him a n***** at school.' It's a wonderful ideal. But people have tried it. And here we are nearly 50 years later and abuse is still powerful, even with a black man in the White House. It might be simpler to just stop saying the N-word instead.'
Chelsea have asked fans to stop using their chant about Alvaro Morata, which uses the word
While not making it right, the use of the word 'yid' in the Chelsea song about Alvaro Morata was to rhyme with Madrid, so if his name was Runers, the word would have been Gooners. Jimrod1000, Hong Kong.
Let's hope they don't sign anyone from Troon then, if it's racist rhyming that's inexplicably unavoidable.
It's getting ridiculous now for real football fans. Can't sing, can't stand, can't enjoy yourself. Is there any other kind of entertainment where the fans are held in such contempt? I'm a Manchester United season ticket holder so obviously can relate to an atmosphere being taken away by day trippers, but I travelled to Harrogate versus Salford last week and I've never experienced so many jobsworth stewards. My friends go to watch Wigan rugby and Wigan football. They can sit in same seat drinking alcohol watching rugby but can't even smell of ale at the football. Somethings got to give. No wonder fans get frustrated. Wink1982, Wigan.
Can't sing, can't stand, can't get plastered, can't enjoy yourself? Ever thought of watching the football? The football's good fun as well, and can often be approached sober and without the need for abuse. And, as you know, Wink, there is a reason alcohol was banned at football matches. People were dying. That's why rugby and football are treated differently. And it's not about class either, because the sport you are referring to is rugby league, which is as working class as they come. One final point. Some of your neighbours in Wigan might consider a person who leaves town to follow Manchester United each week a day-tripper, too. Not me. I'm a live and let live kind of guy.
You will never stop it. So off you go, snowflakes. Vic, Hertfordshire.
Now, Vic, we know better to use the S-word on here. Otherwise, I'll make another disparaging remark about Brexit in passing, and all the Leave voters will wee in their trousers again.
'Cos the thing I love most is being a Yid! Being a Yid, Being a Yid! The thing I love most is being a Yid!' FloreatSalopia, Shropshire.
But are you a Yid, mate – or you just some wannabe from Shropshire, a place with barely any Jewish population, that has never had to deal with anti-Semitism as it was experienced in London, Manchester, Leeds, or any major city with a significant Jewish immigrant population. Because then you're just playing with something you know nothing about – which is probably why your post is so utterly infantile.
Look for years, we Spurs fans had to put up with anti-Semitic abuse from London fans and no-one came to help us, not the police, not the FA, not David Baddiel. So to defuse the situation we adopted the Y-word in a witty and non-confrontational way. Henry Baker-Brown, London.
We'll come back to the issue of solidarity later, but first I'll say this. If you are really so in touch with Jewish culture through your association with Spurs, how comes I had to correct your spelling of Semitic? There's no second E. And that's not a mistake anyone who was truly down with the Yids would make, Henry. I think this unity argument is a convenient excuse.
Tottenham fans have continued to use the word and defend its usage despite controversy
What about the hissing noises and songs about Auschwitz from your lovely West Ham fans, Martin? Your club is just as bad. Steven Betts, Florida.
I'd say it's worse. But then I acknowledged that in the piece, if you had bothered to read it.
Yiddo, yiddo – and proud to be one. DC Sat, Parma.
Well, of course, you can be now. Would you have been as keen to proclaim that kinship in Italy, say, 75 years ago? That's when the Jews needed people to stand by their side in Europe. Didn't really happen, did it?
You heard him, Tottenham fans. You all have to stop that song because Martin Samuel says so. Fans can sing and do what they want. Nogs, Liverpool.
Point me to where he says to stop using it? You can't. Modernising is different. Paranoidis Android, Leeds.
Thanks, PA. Very good spot. I saw what happened when the FA tried banning the 'Yid Army' chant. It is pointless going down that road which is why I talked of modernising, of realising that the point has been made, and it is time to evolve. As for Nogs' insistence that fans can sing and do what they want, presumably he is fine with the chants of 'murderers' at Anfield then? That is fans singing and doing what they want and, given what is now known, it is appalling. Any reasonable person has no issue with limits on behaviour because we have seen too many instances of misery and pain caused when excesses go unchecked.
Any fans who want to use the word merely have to don a Tottenham shirt and get a free pass. LORNAO, London.
I'm not sure any Chelsea fans will do that in a hurry, but I get your point.
Tottenham fans sung 'two more years' for Arsene Wenger. The idiots didn't realise he's won more trophies at Arsenal than they have in their whole history. Trevarseuk, London.
Spurs players and their fans celebrate beating Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League
Wenger at Arsenal, ten trophies – three Premier League, seven FA Cup. Tottenham, 17 trophies – two league titles, eight FA Cup, four League Cup, the European Cup-Winners Cup, two UEFA Cup. Come on mate, it's a two second internet search.
One of our songs has the line: 'They tried to stop us and look what it did, the thing I like most is being a yid.' If the club liaised with supporters groups properly over time they could stop the use of it, sadly, the club can't even talk with them about simple matters such as loyalty points and ticketing at Wembley and the new stadium. So I don't hold much hope. Maxj, London.
I agree, Max. I broached that in the column. This is what I mean about modernisation. The club should be prepared to open that dialogue, unless Daniel Levy is happy at the word 'yid' being bandied around in his ground, no matter the context. I don't think you can ban it, but I think it has run its course as a worthy riposte, and there is a grave risk the ownership is being lost. Maybe the club are scared confronting this issue will cost. In which case, the next contribution from a musical Tottenham fan is appropriate. Here's Wiley.
Disappointing article, Martin. You have form on this issue. As I've explained to you on more than a few occasions, the argument is about the context of the use of the word, and not the word itself. Just to remind you, I have been a Spurs supporter since I was six years old, and for decades Jews and gentiles have stood together proudly chanting the word. This issue has been done to death with the FA, the police and in the courts and has been put to bed in that sense, with leaders inside the Jewish community publicly stating and providing evidence in court, that the there is no offence within the context used by Spurs fans. Keith Barrado, London.
Really? Here's The Guardian on the subject, from September 17, 2013. 'The FA released a statement last week strongly restating its belief that the term 'Yid' should not be used in any context at a football ground and warning that its use could amount to a criminal offence that would leave fans at risk of being banned and prosecuted. The FA's stance was backed by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Community Security Trust, which represents Jewish interests…' Before you come on here patronising me and 'my form', you might want to get some real knowledge of the subject, rather than just pompously affecting it.
We've all got our personal experiences, as you are about to discover. And, by the way, why would a gentile be proud to sing the word 'yid' as response to a racist slur – because if his own people treated Jews with respect, he wouldn't need to do it. He should feel very disappointed that it is considered necessary, not proud.
You'll never stop Tottenham singing that chant. If you look back over history, away fans used to sing it as an offensive slur because of Tottenham's links to the Jewish community. The Spurs fans turned this negative into a positive to declare themselves the 'Yid Army' as a one-finger salute to those fans. Carlos, Southend.
I agree. I saw it as solidarity. Turning a supposed insult into a badge of pride and defiance. I hope Jewish people are not offended but then I hope certain fans can stop being racist morons. Perturbed, London.
Right, here goes. I grew up in a Tottenham supporting area. Still live quite near. My next door neighbours support Tottenham. Family on my wife's side are Tottenham. My best mate at school was Tottenham, and my best mate in sixth form, too. Quite a few of my classmates were, in fact. I went to Tottenham plenty of times with them, when West Ham were away. Got chased down the road by a load of Leeds fans once, I recall. There were about ten of us. We were only 13.
We all came round the corner, saw this little firm, and stopped in our tracks. One of our big-mouthed Tottenham lot – Macca I think his name was – then came round the corner, singing. We got away all right. I'm quite fast when I need to be.
Now my kids have grown up in the same area, a lot of their mates are Tottenham fans, too. One with his dad on the board. And I meet Tottenham fans every day through my job, my social life, some are colleagues in the press box. And here's the thing. Not once, not ever, has any Tottenham fan attempted to engage me in a conversation about the solidarity he feels with the Jewish community, and why that inspires his ownership of the word 'yid'.
Not Webby, not Lofty, not Claire, not Costas, not Norman, not Callum, not Macca, not John, not Simon, not Richard, not Roy, not Joanne, not Tim, not Paolo, not Barry, not Andy, not Paul, not the other Paul, not the other other Paul – you get the idea.
Tottenham fans have continued to use the word and justifying its usage in chants and songs
None of them have ever mentioned this solidarity, despite me having a surname that makes everyone presume I am Jewish. Never came up in discussion. Not once. NOT EVER. Now, I can understand how a certain solidarity might be felt. For a period of time I wrote a sports column for the Jewish Chronicle. And, in those years, despite having never identified with any organised religion, I felt quite, let's say well disposed, to the faith. I'm sure Tottenham supporters feel the same.
I don't think any Tottenham fan is going to join a neo-Nazi rally, no matter how many fine people Donald Trump says are in attendance. But I'm not buying that this is a calculated show of solidarity. It might now be part of the club identity, it might be a handy tool to poke up the noses of the racists, but this is not an overtly political act. I think claiming it as one conveniently adds to the justification, but I'm not convinced.
Tottenham, along with other supporters, chant about Chelsea rent boys and no-one seems to give a fig. Yet there is no doubt that these words are both offensive and derogatory. Terraloon, Dorchester.
Indeed. And if Chelsea's fans retaliated by calling themselves the Queer Army, or Fag Army, of Poof Army – because 'Yid' is the derogatory term, Tottenham don't call themselves the 'Jew Army' – would this be reasonable; or would it be deemed offensive that straight men are presuming to 'reclaim' such words?
So what? It's our right to say what we want at a football game. We don't mean anything by it, we are just letting off some steam after a hard week at work. Now we can't say this or that, but it's OK for the Premier League to steal our game from us and sell it around the world to any foreigners with money. Rod72, Surrey.
Oh, give it a rest mate. My old man's 78. Still works at his poultry stall. Still chops chickens. Still loads and unloads. Hard, manual labour. And when he goes to a football match, he doesn't go to let off steam, because that's the action of a child, not a grown man. He goes to watch the football. He'd probably applaud a good goal from the opposition, too, if that wouldn't attract abuse from some cretin who thinks it's his right to say what he wants.
So answer me this: if we should all be able to say anything at football, how come if there's an opposition fan in the main stand doing nothing more provocative than cheering on his team, a bunch of precious, nasty little twerps go berserk and want him thrown out?
It's not the Y word but how it is used. At Spurs, there are no Auschwitz songs or songs about gas. There are at Arsenal, West Ham and Chelsea. The Jewish owners at West Ham and Chelsea have had to ask their fans to stop singing them.
The Y word at Tottenham is a collective identity, one of unification rather than division. It is also not Tottenham's fault that this brings out the worst in opposing fans. That is their choice. They choose to sing racist songs.
As a Jewish person I feel more comfortable at the Lane and now Wembley than I ever could at Chelsea, West Ham or Arsenal. If it makes you uncomfortable, then that's an issue you have with your own supporters at West Ham. Rugby7, Yokohama.
I don't hear Arsenal fans singing that to Tottenham fans. Don Dons, London.
Some West Ham fans have used anti-Semitic chants against Spurs. Note, this picture is for illustrative purposes only
Nor do I, Don. Never heard any Auschwitz or gas references at Arsenal. As for West Ham, I documented my distaste for the behaviour of some of their supporters in the column. I made it pretty plain who was to blame, too. I just feel it is time we removed the last fig leaf of equivalency the real racists have. And that can only be done one way.
Nobody is accusing Tottenham of chanting the word in a racist manner but we all know what some a small portion of football fans are like and by using a derogatory word, even in a non-derogatory manner, it only breeds anti-Semitism in English football. Eradicating it will only happen if Spurs take a stand and stop.
If, for example, Bradford fans went around calling themselves the Islamic Army as they are from a very heavily populated Islamic area, it would increase racism, even though they were not being racist. There is a thin line between the passion and banter which makes football so great and the idiots who use it as an excuse to cross the line. Mikekhal, London.
I think you might have it the wrong way round. If visiting fans were singing pejorative songs about Muslims inside Valley Parade and then the Bradford fans who were not Muslim chose to call themselves the Islamic Army then it would be the same. The Y-word was adopted in response to visiting fans from Chelsea, Leeds and West Ham who thought that using it and referencing the Holocaust were jolly amusing.