Hooliganism with a twist.
February 26, 2005 2:38 PM   Subscribe

"We're Hunting The Jews" go the chants at the Feyenoord soccer stadium in Rotterdam whenever Ajax is in town. Supporters of Ajax, one of the top Dutch football clubs based in Amsterdam, call themselves "Jews" or "Super Jews" based perhaps on historical Jewish communities. They wave Israeli flags and wear Stars of David in one of the oddest traditions in sport. Of course, the story wouldn't be complete without their opponents chanting "They've forgotten to gas you!" and hissing to mimic the gas chambers. Further complicating matters is the mosque being built overshadowing Feyenoord's stadium. Ajax wants the Jewish symbolism to stop to prevent further embarrassment, but this isn't the only case of "Jewish" clubs in European football, and the reaction they provoke.
posted by loquax (36 comments total)
Sorry there aren't more links to direct sources, most of what I could find was in Dutch. Hopefully someone more familiar with these clubs can say how exactly how prevalent the Jewish fandom and the anti-semitism are. Regardless, it seems like a very bizarre set of circumstances, both the apparently unchecked ethnic hatred and the identification of the Ajax fans with a people they generally know nothing about.

And on preview, the two footy posts in a row are just a coincidence.
posted by loquax at 2:39 PM on February 26, 2005

Since posting pics is frowned upon, imagine in your mind here the oft-displayed gif of the little blond kid in the Feyenoord jersey giving the finger.

den Haag's fans are generally considered to be "worse" than they are...

No discussion of religious warfare in football is complete without mention of the Old Firm games in Scotland.
posted by First Post at 2:53 PM on February 26, 2005

This is scary stuff and at the same time very weird, loquax. Interesting post.
posted by y2karl at 3:09 PM on February 26, 2005

When completed, the mosque will be one of the largest in western Europe, with room for 1,500 worshipers and boasting minarets that will soar 164 feet into the air - higher than the adjacent stadium's light banners.

You'll be able to beat lots of women with all that space.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 3:11 PM on February 26, 2005

wtf? ignorant, offensive and a derail all in one go. tisk TJH
posted by edgeways at 3:44 PM on February 26, 2005

This is scary stuff and at the same time very weird, loquax.

Very weird. Sorta like all those baseball clubs named after Indians.
posted by 327.ca at 3:48 PM on February 26, 2005

"They've forgotten to gas you!"

Wow. That might be the best opponent jeer I've heard in a while. Sports fans are right pricks.
posted by graventy at 3:52 PM on February 26, 2005

What I find interesting is that this nonsense apears in what is often termed the most liberal, permissive, rational country in Europe. Now, with large and growing Muslim population, they may soon view Jews as a much more desirous group than has been the case up to now....
posted by Postroad at 4:15 PM on February 26, 2005

Very weird. Sorta like all those baseball clubs named after Indians.
Er, what? I can somewhat see what you're going at, but this seems much, much worse. Opposing fans of teams with Indian-related names don't yell, "Bomb the reservations" or the like. The Indian-related team names are relatively harmless.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:21 PM on February 26, 2005

The Indian-related team names are relatively harmless.

I don't know. I guess it depends on your point of view. There's a lot of opinion on both sides of that question.

I once saw a Darkie Boy™ lawn ornament at a garage sale. I imagine there was a time and place when naming things like this seemed relatively harmless.

I don't know much about native people in the US, but here in Canada aboriginal culture has been virtually destroyed with tragic consequences. Personally, I find the references to native culture in baseball -- e.g., the Atlanta Braves' "tomahawk chop" pretty offensive.
posted by 327.ca at 4:44 PM on February 26, 2005

You can learn a lot more about this and other strange soccer traditions in Franklin Foer's How Soccer Explains the World. The book does no such thing, but it's a very good read nonetheless.

As I recall this particular example cuts both ways - you have the negative side for sure, but also a lot of secular people and protestants very happy to identify as jews as well. It's all a bit strange from this side of the Atlantic.
posted by mikel at 4:49 PM on February 26, 2005

wtf? ignorant, offensive and a derail all in one go. tisk TJH
posted by edgeways at 3:44 PM PST on February 26 [!]

I was, apparently unsuccessfully, attempting to convey an extension of what loqaux's linked article to 'jihadwatch' imparted.
It was possibly insightful, endearing and on topic all in one go, but only to me.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 4:52 PM on February 26, 2005

The sad thing is that Ajax has never been particularly Jewish. The football club didn't lose more of its members during the Shoah compared to other Amsterdam clubs, but members were punished for collaboration with the Germans after the war.

The only link there is that Amsterdam had a large middle class Jewish population before WWII, most of whom lived in the east part of Amsterdam. Which was where the Ajax ground used to be as well.
posted by ijsbrand at 5:05 PM on February 26, 2005

Nice post. I now know (as a sports fan) I don't have the worst taste in the world.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:05 PM on February 26, 2005

I knew nothing about this. Thanks for posting it, loquax.
posted by languagehat at 5:23 PM on February 26, 2005

Excellent and interesting FPP loquax, I, as well, was not aware of this.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 5:45 PM on February 26, 2005

In Oz, Soccer is about the 6th biggest sporting league in terms of money and following. Up until 10 or more years ago it was very "tribal", with team names related to the ethnicity of the players and followers. eg. You had Greek clubs with Greek names and Italian clubs with Italian names and Croatian clubs with Croatian names etc etc.

Then the authorities banned names that were of ethnic origin. (Somehow "Sydney Olympic" fell through the cracks and I'm not sure why. They still have that name.) Fair enough, IMO. The powers-that-be were trying to increase its appeal. It was very much a "wog game" right up until a new, non ethnic team was admitted into the league in the mid 90s – Perth Glory.

Anyway. Long story short. Bobby Despotovski (idiot) playing for Perth Glory gave a Serbian war salute during a game against the Melbourne Knights, who have a lot of Croatian followers. There was a near riot.

Bobby had to publicly apologise and I think he might have been suspended for a time. Bobby was too scared to play there next year (ahem – he was "rested").

A year or two later, in an interview, he said something completely stupid like "They made me say sorry but of course I am not". Nary a word was said as a result of his comments.

*As an aside, I'd like to say that if he carried on like that and provoked black players or supporters in the AFL, he would have got a huge fine, huge suspension, and been royally reamed in the media. And he would have got the same dose again when he retracted his apology like the smartass that he is.

**Great link, loquax.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:48 PM on February 26, 2005

TJH, the trouble is no one reads the articles.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:50 PM on February 26, 2005

If Jesus played football, the other team's fans would bring crosses and shout "Nail him!"

While what these fans do is in horribly bad taste, it's to be expected. Sad, really.
posted by Saydur at 5:52 PM on February 26, 2005

I can somewhat see what you're going at, but this seems much, much worse. Opposing fans of teams with Indian-related names don't yell, "Bomb the reservations" or the like. The Indian-related team names are relatively harmless.

I attended Florida State University, whose mascot is "the Seminoles". I am of American Indian descent. One day, I was going to the beach with one of my best friends who is enrolled in a federally recognized tribe.

I was wearing a mascot-free FSU hat (mascot-free FSU clothing is hard to come by!). We stopped to get gas, and the little old lady in the store said, "Are y'all Seminoles?" And we said, "no, we're not Seminoles" (because neither of us are).

The sweet little old lady said, well that's good, because we're Gators (the University of Florida's mascot), and we KILL Indians!

That didn't exactly feel harmless to me.
posted by gminks at 6:33 PM on February 26, 2005

What gminks said.
posted by 327.ca at 6:58 PM on February 26, 2005

As a Muslim, I don't know what to say - I'm left somewhat speechless and appreciative of life here in Canada. I mean - the entire thing seems like something out of Jerry Springer.. I know that in living here in Calgary, that I've heard people complain about our Mosque (it's located on top of a high hill in a prominent neighborhood), but in all fairness, our mosque was built 20 years ago when the city wasn't nearly as large (in fact, it was actually on what was farmland at the time).

Although less extreme than the pages linked to in this article, I often feel the same sentiments coming through.

I guess, I'd look at their arguments IF they showed as much passion against a new building overlooking the stadium whether it was a church or a mosque (I have the feeling, it's definitely because it's a mosque and that a church would've been a-okay).
posted by burhan at 7:37 PM on February 26, 2005

Regarding the mosque, I only included that link to highlight some of the future problems this may lead to, or some of the issues it may get wrapped up in. It wasn't to say that Muslims or Arabs are the ones chanting or acting the way the other links describe. In fact, they seem to have nothing to do with the current nonsense. Whether or not the mosque exacerbates the situation will likely have more to do with immigration and demographic pressures Holland is facing, as someone else said.

As for the Redskins, Braves, Indians, Seminoles and Eskimos, I'm not quite sure what to say. First, I think it is very different than what's happening in Rotterdam or London. Consider this song:

When I was a little biddy boy
My grandpa gave me a cute little toy
A Tottenham yid on a string
And this is what he told me to do with him

Kick his fucking head in
His fucking head in
He told me to kick his fucking head in
His fucking head in
His fucking head in
He told me to kick his fucking head in

To the tune of Chuck Berry's "My ding-a-ling"

There is no way in hell, unless I'm very mistaken, that you'll ever hear something like that at any professional sporting event in North America, with very rare and isolated exceptions. Maybe wrestling, which is a bit of a different animal. That isn't to say that North Americans are more refined and civilized than Europeans, but I'm at a loss to explain this behaviour, and had never considered that this sort of thing was still going on at any meaningful level in Holland and England, for crying out loud. There was a good point made in the first link that can be applied elsewhere in the world as well, on a variety of subjects:

Hardly any foreigner knows what's being yelled during Feyenoord - Ajax, Holland's largest sports game. There are three reasons for that:

* Foreigners don't understand Dutch.
* Foreigners are hardly interested in Holland.
* The Dutch are very good at public relations.

Regardless, that chant was sung in London, in the 1980's. Those people were either not aware that what they were saying was wrong, or even worse, didn't think it was. Here's another, again from London:

Gas a jew, jew, jew stick him in the oven gas mark 2,
Gas a jew, jew, jew stick him in the oven gas mark 2,
In his head in his eye, jump up and down on him make him cry,
Gas a jew, jew, jew stick him in the oven gas mark 2.

The violent and hateful sentiment is a world apart from the insensitivity demonstrated by the native North American sports team names. If anything, the names designed to be positive and sell merchandise, like the pro-jew cheers of the Ajax fans. It doesn't make it right (especially the Redskins name), but I think that this stuff in Holland is a fair bit worse, and more troublesome in its near-term political implications. I think it's one thing to not be fully aware of the history of Native peoples and perform tomahawk chops without realizing or not caring that you may be offending, and quite another to be singing about gas chambers and foreskins in Holland, a scant 60 years after the fact, with survivors in the audience. Can you imagine Celtics fans showing up in hoods with nooses to greet the Lakers, or Cowboys fans singing in unison about slaughtering the red man when the Redskins come to visit? If it happens, I've never heard about it.
posted by loquax at 8:29 PM on February 26, 2005

loquax, I am really sad that you can understand how awful it is for there to be a Jewish mascot, but you cannot understand how the Indian mascots are really the exact same thing.

This quote from a book called Dancing at Halftime may help you understand how maddening reading your comments are to me:
"People have always done this. When one people conquers another, religion is one of the spoils. So are whatever other elements appeal to the conquerors. Think of the Romans. When they conquered the Greeks, the took their gods, renamed them, and began to worship them. That is part of warfare. He's a trophy, your Indian"
The trophy referred to here is the student who dances at the University of Illinois halftime shows.

There have been unbelievably racist comments, jeers, cartoons, etc related to teams with Indian mascots. The worst to me as a woman of Cherokee descent and an FSU alum has to be this cartoon for the Fiesta Bowl a few years ago.
Some text from the cartoon:
"Don't worry, Folks...He's not a full-blooded Indian...He's just a Semi-Nole!"
"New and Improved Trail of Tears"
"Paleface speak with forked-tongue! This land is ours as long as grass grows and river flows...oof!"
It's ok to dress up and pretend to be Indian, including the red face and stoic attitude. Because, of course, this is "positive" and helps "sell merchandise".

But hey whatever.
posted by gminks at 9:24 PM on February 26, 2005

gminks, you misunderstand. First, I did not say anything about mascots in particular. I referred to symbols and team names. There are perfectly appropriate and non-offensive uses of Native symbols, like the Vancouver Canucks, or even the Canadian 20 dollar bill. Second, the outrage I felt was not at the Ajax club and their fan's use of Jewish symbols. I find that bizarre and interesting, and maybe as inappropriate as some of the uses of certain Native symbols in North American sport, but as the links say, Israeli Jews seem to be flattered, and have adopted Ajax as one of their favoured European clubs (local Jews do seem to be more offended however).

The outrage I felt was with the way that their opponents attacked them for being Jewish with specific, violent threats that related specifically again to a recent chapter in their history.

Granted any of the same behaviour here towards Native North Americans is just as offensive, and as your links show it does happen. It's my belief though that it does not happen as often or to the degree that it apparently happens in Holland and London with respect to the Jews. Maybe I'm wrong, but personally, I've never come across anything like this before in sport.

You also misrepresented what I said about intentions:

If anything, the names designed to be positive and sell merchandise, like the pro-jew cheers of the Ajax fans.

I am saying that the intention was good if misguided and stupid in both those cases. The Atlanta Braves, Florida Seminoles or Vancouver Canucks or aren't trying to offend or threaten Native Americans, even if they do. This differs greatly in my opinion from singing old SS songs and goosestepping around the team bus - that is the distinction I'm trying to make between the two issues. We may very well disagree.

A discussion of Native North American symbolism and stereotyping in North American sport and its consequences would be very welcome in my opinion, but I don't think there's a need to equate or compare it to anything else here.
posted by loquax at 10:14 PM on February 26, 2005

gminks, loquax agrees with your points about the abusiveness of the Native American iconography, as I do. The real argument you two seem to be having is over whether or not this thread is the proper place for an extended treatment of this similar and related but decidedly different case. Remember that both apples and oranges are round, and are fruit--but this doesn't mean they're the same.
posted by squirrel at 11:49 PM on February 26, 2005

Huh. Queen Elizabeth II is featured on Canadian money. Sorry for playing the ignorant USAian, but that's the oddest thing I've seen all day. Thanks for the link, loquax.

Also: I sure wish humanity would stop sucking so much.
posted by catachresoid at 12:18 AM on February 27, 2005

Flip the bill over... native artistry on the back.
posted by stp123 at 8:53 AM on February 27, 2005

Of course QE II is on our money; she's our (Canada's) queen, too.
posted by reflecked at 10:28 AM on February 27, 2005

Let me explain some things about football and its tribes:

In Europe football hooligans are the closest we got to gangs. They're a way for a large section of the more belligerent youth to vent steam, engage in brutal (and sometimes murderous) fights and generally being as improper as possible.

I'm afraid that loquax has misunderstood the nature of the Ajax fans' attachment to the "Jewish" tag. It's a form of accepting the invective that's aimed at you and reversing it as something good. Thus if your opponent calls you a "Jew" you react by calling yourself a "Super-Jew" and fly the star of David *to piss them off*! Should the Feyenoord fans have called them "Nazis", the same people would have shown up in swastikas (as some of them did before the "Jew" thing started - read the first linked article).

I know of quite a few similar cases in Greece: for example fans of Athenian teams called Thessaloniki teams' fans "Bulgarians" - a very loaded nationalistically "insult" especially in Greek Macedonia. These Thessaloniki fans after a short while, started showing up with Bulgarian flags in the games and chanting about the things the Bulgarians would do to the Athenians mothers etc. Note that these same Thessaloniki fans contained some nasty nationalists who would have killed you if you even so much as suggested that they are in any way Bulgarian.

Anyway as far as I can tell the rabid Feyenoord or Ajax fans could give a rats ass about Dutch Jewery, Israel or the Star of David. It's all pose and transgression.
posted by talos at 11:29 AM on February 27, 2005

What talos said. And props on the post, loquax.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:38 AM on February 27, 2005

It's a form of accepting the invective that's aimed at you and reversing it as something good.

It blows my mind that being called a Jew is considered invective in the first place.

she's our (Canada's) queen, too

Yeah, I realize that now. Part of the Commonwealth and all. I suppose it's that I just don't expect to see constitutional monarchies. Can I blame the poor state of my education, maybe?
posted by catachresoid at 1:25 PM on February 27, 2005

the rabid Feyenoord or Ajax fans could give a rat's ass about Dutch Jewry, Israel or the Star of David.

well put, o talos.
posted by Substrata at 1:35 PM on February 27, 2005

catachresoid: Yes, it's weird, but I have heard teams being called disparagingly: Bulgarian, Turk, African, German, Austrian, Libyan, Gypsy etc. Invective is whatever is hurled at you with intent to insult - no matter how arbitrary. In the case of hardcore Ajax fans, I'm willing to bet that "Jew" was intended as an insult to them because they included (and I'm almost certain that the image I have of Amsterdam skinheads in the mid to late eighties is related to Ajax) neonazis.

Remember though that for most, this is an elaborate way to shock and pick fights.
posted by talos at 2:39 PM on February 27, 2005

Sports proves Neanderthals still breed.
posted by berek at 3:02 PM on February 27, 2005

Yeah, I'm convinced that should Feyenoord fans start to scold their Ajax counterparts for being "Dutch", they would respond by christening themselves "Super Dutch", which in turn would lead Feyenoorders to toss cheese and clogs at the supporters of the opposing side, etc. etc. ad nauseum.

Personally, I find it very difficult to separate the real and horrible things to which these chants, nicknames and all refer to (the Holocaust in this instance) from the non-political, 'boast-and-brag', almost playful sense in which they are being used. That is, I believe that Feyenoord fans aren't really intending to refer to the Holocaust by calling their rivals "Jews", but merely to the image in people's minds of Amsterdam, the war, the plight of the Jewish people etc. which still lay in relatively recent history. I think it's in bad taste by any standard, but still.

Keep in mind that while the deportation and mass murder of Amsterdam (hometown of Ajax) Jews during WWII was one of the blacker pages in an already black chapter in history, Rotterdam (Feyenoord) was downright levelled by German air raids. I'm not trying to justify the anti-Ajax chants; let's just say that if it were the fans of a German side producing these chants during a game against Ajax the outrage would obviously be many times greater.

As for the Ajaxites (Ajacieden) calling themselves Jews: this appears to me as an example of what in Dutch is called a Geuzennaam (NL), a name that a person or group adopts with a certain pride, while it originated as a derogatory term for that person or group. This derives from the Watergeuzen (EN), the rebel fleet that aided the resistance against Spanish forces in the 16th century, ultimately resulting in the establishment of a sovereign Netherlands.

I'm not sure if there's a word for this in English, but it's certainly a hot topic in contemporary linguistic change: compare for example African-Americans calling each other "nigger", the use of "faggot" among homosexuals, etc.

Football fandom does go far, though: some Ajaxites are so fanatical that they choose not to utter the word "Rotterdam": instead, they say "010", after Rotterdam's phone area code. Such rivalry between towns that are a mere 35 miles apart - that's Holland for ya, I guess.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:25 PM on February 27, 2005

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