Sunday 29 September 2013

Opinion: Spurs fans must ditch the Y-word

David Cameron's entrance into the debate over the use of the word 'yid' by Tottenham Hotspur supporters has only served to push those with extreme views either way but Spurs should leave the Y-word behind them, argues Alex Lawson 
Picture the scene. You’re a Spurs supporter with your eight-year-old taking them to White Hart Lane for the first time. During the match the home supporters begin chanting ‘Yid Army’ or another use of the Y-word. Your child, who knows nothing of World War Two, asks you what that means.
You then explain it’s a derogatory term for Jewish people, the traditional foundation of the team’s support, used ironically in response to abuse from rival supporters hissing to emulate the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Hardly the pleasant induction to live football anyone would want.
At Cardiff City Stadium yesterday many of the Spurs fans made their opinions clear with renditions of “we’re Tottenham Hotspur, we’ll sing what we want”, and repeated chants of “Yid Army” throughout the game.
The debate over the use of the Y-word in the last week has split opinion. The Football Association warned Spurs fans that those found chanting the word could be prosecuted; Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that Spurs fans have the right to describe themselves as Yids arguing that “you have to be motivated by hate to be prosecuted”, while Jewish comedian and The Y-Word filmmaker David Baddiel – a production released by Kick It Out in 2011 – argued the use of the word has clouded the simple fact it is a racist term.
Cameron’s argument is an odd one. If he acknowledges that Yid is a hate word then asking the FA and police to decide the nuance in which the word has been used makes little sense. The simple fact is, if a racist term is being used in a ground, it is not acceptable.
The obvious comparison is the use of the N-word. The censorship of the most controversial word in the English language has been a long running debate, notably exacerbated by its frequent use by black musicians with the defence that it can’t be racist if used by a black person.
However, the proliferation of a racist term, whether it refers to a black, Asian or Jewish person, can never be a good thing.
Spurs traditionally began using the term to defend themselves against the use of the word against them. Other London clubs also receive anti-semitic chants, as do Dutch giants Ajax.
Respected Society of Black Lawyers member David Neita argues that Spurs fans suggestion they are reclaiming a word originally used to taunt them is “an insult to anybody’s intelligence”. He argues that, as anti-semitism is highlighted and prosecuted in the modern age, the continued use of the word is not acceptable.
Moreover, Baddiel highlights the fact that less than five per cent of Tottenham fans are estimated to be Jewish. As such, the siege mentality defence of a persecuted minority does not stand up.
The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust are to poll members on whether they should continue to use the word. A negative result would represent a victory for common sense and a severance of ties to an unsavoury past.
Article originally appeared on

Saturday 14 September 2013

Qatar controversy overshadows Russia 2018 World Cup disputes

With the footballing world's eyes trained on the debate over on whether Qatar can realistically host a summer World Cup, governing body FIFA is hurtling towards the preceding tournament in Russia which could prove just as controversial.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko has
proved a divisive figure
Russia's selection as hosts for the 2018 tournament was seen has the lesser of two evils by the British media when England were spurned in 2010. The nation's history within the sport and its national team's excellent run to the semi-finals of Euro 2008 gave it a credence among observers. 

However, outside perceptions that two nations with significant pots of national cash had bought both events were widespread. Moreover, traditional shrouds of secrecy and mistrust between the West and Russia re-emerged as tempers ran high. 

Now, with the world questioning Qatar's ability to either host fans in sweltering summer heat or disrupt the international football calendar through a winter cup, Russia is quietly putting its plans in place. These include the erection of a number of swashbuckling asymmetric stadia at great expense

However, one man appears determined to ensure the scepticism that still surrounds the Russian game remains - Vitaly Mutko.

The country's sports minister and FIFA executive committee member has proved a controversial figure for some time. Perhaps most infamously, he was alleged to have bought 97 breakfasts in racking up a $4,500 bill in expenses while accompanying the Russian team to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada in 2010. 

When Russia were awarded the World Cup, Mutko - then president of the Russian Football Union - lashed out at English allegations of corruption in Russian football with similar counter comments. He later qualified that statement: "I meant that if you dig deeply you find corruption in any country."  

In recent months, Mutko has been at the centre of two further whirlwinds. In July, an amendment to existing laws allowed Mutko's Government to put rules in place which allow "foreign nationals and stateless persons" to be employed by official FIFA partners, effectively paving the way for illegal immigrants to be employed on longer working hours with few rights by sponsors and contractors. 

Local civil right site The Russian Reader says: "We cannot help noticing that all these measures have been proposed and ratified by the same government that is literally right now organising actual raids on migrants and imprisoning them in special camps in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Volgograd, Samara, Rostov-on-Don, and Kaliningrad." It adds: "Does this mean that the right hand of the Russian state doesn’t know what the left hand is doing? Not in the least. All the above-named cities are hosting the 2018 World Cup."

Add to this the controversy over Russia's new law which prevent promoting homosexuality to minors and its credibility in hosting football's premier competition is further blurred. Mutko called on international observers to "calm down" after controversial comments made by Russian Olympics pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and claimed 'gay propaganda' had been whipped up in the media. 

Russia host the Winter Sochi Olympics next February and Mutko has assured visitors and athletes will have their rights and freedoms respected. 

Perhaps in reality the still resolutely macho nature of football fandom means a overt promotion of homosexual rights in 2018 is unlikely. However, allowing freedom of expression for fans in host countries remains vital if FIFA is to rescue its tattered reputation. 

While the world wonders whether a Qatari World Cup will ever happen, the shrapnel left by the Iron Curtain threatens to drive another rift between the West and the rest. 

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Review: Tony Jameson's Football Manager Ruined My Life show

The borderline between an obsession and a full blown addiction can be a fine one. When comedian Tony Jameson explains how he slipped away from a wedding to make a few vital transfers and took his laptop on an open top bus tour around Newcastle to celebrate a virtual Champions League win you are in little doubt over which camp he falls into.

Jameson, a cheeky Geordie sporting a heavily hairsprayed quiff, has taken the stage at the Dingwalls in Camden Lock to a packed house. The event, hosted by Football Manager creators Sports Interactive, sees Jameson debut his sold out Edinburgh show in London, explaining the impact of everyone’s favourite addictive computer game (which he describes as essentially “like office admin but for football”) on his life.
It wasn’t all fun and games however, as Sports Interactive promised to unveil new features of the game if attendees donated to favoured charity War Child.
 It’s fair to say Jameson is playing to a home crowd. Among the audience are the tell tale eye bags of those who’ve spent hours awaiting a chairman’s report, assessing a player’s stats and agonising over formations.
Jameson’s tale is an amusing one – after a footy injury led to a period laid up on the sofa that allowed him to indulge his addiction further and led to him shunning a career as a teacher.
Notable runs include taking Aston Villa to virtual glory only to be abandoned by his star player and powering Blyth Spartans up the league to European glory. The latter represents his proudest achievement, leading to the bus tour, contact with the Northumbrian club and an amusing video of Jameson unveiling a new signing and his statue at Spartans’ empty ground. He even glides by the camera to give a Harry Redknapp-style car-window-on-deadline-day interview.
The biggest cheers of the night went up for Football Manager’s crowning glory; the players that might have been. The addictive game thrives on stats and some players appear far better than in real life, as such pictures of the likes of former Aston Villa and Anderlecht striker Nii Lamptey and Nigerian defender Taribo ‘That Haircut’ West.
Jameson’s audience revel in the show’s identifiable moments and his ability to undermine himself is consistently funny. He hints he may develop the act to meet all of his Football Manager underachieving heroes in future.
For Sports Interactive his obsession is an excellent endorsement of a game which is loved by its players and hated by their nearest and dearest. Football Manager may have been the scourge of his early years but the sold out show, and his recent nuptials, mean things are looking up for the talented Jameson.
Article originally appeared on