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The Role of Antisemitism in Football

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Kickitout report shows that in professional games (82%), grassroots environment (50%) and on social media (74.1%), antisemitism occupied the most significant ratio of racism. Researches indicate that in the past decade, football has made significant progress in enhancing diversity and equality in terms of women’s participation, disability, ageism and BAME participation rate. In this essay, the term ‘diversity’ has much more extensive meaning referring to differences including not only just race, gender, ethnicity, age, and disability, but also functional concerns such as education, expertise, and rank in the organisation, as well as personality and abilities. Equality means that each individual gets the same treatment, opportunities and rights so that they can use these resources to reach one’s potential. However, despite all the forward movement stated above, many advances still need to be made to overcome antisemitism. Boyd (2015) highlights that there is an increase in the level and number of anti-semitic incidents in Europe.

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Additionally, Finkelstein indicates that large proportions of Jews in the UK and other places still feel anxiety for verbal abuse, which is now becoming a new wave of an online bully. For football professionals, it is imperative to have an understanding of antisemitism to increase the level of diversity as inclusion of diversity helps a team reach high-quality relations, develop creativity and foster commitment as well as job performance . This essay will first introduce the concept of new antisemitism in football after 1970 , and then outline a mechanism of it, followed by possible improvements on tackling antisemitism using Inclusion Framework .

The Concept

Antisemitism has changed its form, holding different concepts in terms of characteristics and appearance from time to time, but it also has standard features. Given there are differences in the meaning throughout decades, to highlight common traits, this essay applies Meer’s definition of antisemitism described as the mistrust, dislike or hatred of Jewish individuals or groups, which can be attitudinal or structural, based on a ‘Jewishness’ that is actual or inferred. Additionally, differentiating ‘new antisemitism’ from past forms, Klug illustrates two elements which are Zionism and Jewish identification with Israel. It would not have been possible these two elements until Israel developed a Zionist movement and the post-second world war .

Moreover, new antisemitism takes another distinctive trait, especially in terms of targets compared to other types of racism in different forms such as intermittent outbursting verbal abuse, chants, and humour. Clavane and Garland proposes that antisemitism is not frequently seen as similar to racism on other races and ethnic minorities which mainly targets an individual player. For example, racism on black people often happens when supporters identify an individual player as black and the player is subject to racist abuse, while antisemitism mostly targeted at clubs and fans . Likewise, there are no league clubs targeted as ‘black’ according to Kassimires, while some clubs are identified Jewish such as Bayern Munich, MTK Budapest (Hadas,and Ajax.

Even though some researchers believe antisemitism happens only to clubs and fans, there are some incidents in the past which show that antisemitism takes on a form of individual abuse. When Israeli-born footballer Tal Ben Haim was transferred to QPR, on the page of the announcement of his transfer, supporters wrote offensive comments. Similarly, Chelsea Israeli player, Yossi Benayoun unveiled that he suffered anti-semitic verbal abuse which was targeted him by Chelsea supporters.

Evolving from definitions and examples above, in this essay, the concept of ‘new antisemitism in football’ refers to all the abusive behaviours towards a target, regardless of its size, associated with the Zionism or Jewish connecting actually or presumably.

The Mechanism

‘Chim chiminee, chim chiminee, chim chim churro, Jürgen was a German, but now he is Jew’. According to Efron, supporters of Tottenham Hotspurs made this chant when AS Monaco transferred him to Tottenham Hotspurs whose supporters identify themselves as a group that represents a Jewish community. The context around this chant should be provided for explaining one aspect of new-antisemitism mechanism. Though Jürgen Klinsmann played for AS Monaco who play in the first division of French league, he represented West Germany International side since he was born in West Germany. However, this chant implies that he changed his nationality following his transfer to Tottenham in 1994. Dixon (2015) explained the idea behind this, saying that since the 1970s, football clubs have been becoming representative national bodies and for fans and communities in which they locate.

This notion gained more extra momentum coinciding with far-right groups gaining access to football in the 1970s when football merged with working-class supporters with the increase in the number of expression of fascism. Additionally, Blackshaw (2008) hints that football clubs work as ‘imagined community’, theorised by Benedict Anderson, explaining that what people experience and how they behave can be understood as an expression of the collective experience of the member of a nation-state, as known as fascicm, in that era. Concluded from these studies, it is estimated that football work as a virtual nation for supporters and it saw a transformation of supporters behaviour from giving support to their favourite team to using their team to express their identity. 

Testa (2010) illustrates this new feature of football with relation to society, using two distinct types of supporters in Italy, Ultra and Ultras. While Ultra puts their team first, Ultras put their group and aims before the team and are hostile to anyone outside of their world or anyone who can be threat to their group. Over this change in their attitude of supporters in football, and with rise of the notion of fascism among supporters, they started to excluding any threat to their aim of achieving ultimate unity .

 As a characteristic of Fascism, a nation is recognised as a race, all other races which could be a threat to disrupt the purpose of unifying the nation become target of exclusion. On this point, the knives were out to the Jewish people that had a shift in creation of their identity which initially had been based on their religion to their racialised group.  

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