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A letter from a Jewish Tottenham fan to David Baddiel

Dear David,

Here we are again. The Y word. Or to refer to its real name, The C Word. Because as you and I both know this little problem is not about Spurs fans using the word Yid in a positive or negative manner. It’s about feeling uncomfortable at Chelsea games.

I can appreciate where you are coming from. As a Jewish Tottenham fan myself, going to Stamford Bridge is an incredibly difficult day out for me. I’m 37 and I look like a typical NW London Jew. You and I would pick each other out as Jews from 100 yards at any holiday destination on Earth. I even have a brilliant Jewish hooter to top off the look. I am what I am. Getting off the tube at Fulham Broadway though, I might as well have that yellow star sewn to my coat, because you are quite right this is not what football is about. It’s a quite vile experience and as a father of two boys, one that I won’t be putting them through until they are a lot older, if at all. To be honest though, this is your problem and not mine. We turned an insult into a positive. All on our own. The gay community did it with the word ‘queer’. It’s quite clever really. Quite why you suggest that those who turned the insult into a term of fraternity should lead the way, so those that use it as a racial insult can be told not to use it, is quite frankly illogical.

Chelsea, West Ham, Leeds. These are the three places where I have heard the gassing noises and felt that pang of nausea in my stomach. A pang you describe and which I’m sure you feel somewhat ashamed about. Be that as it may, Tottenham on a match day is probably the safest environment in England for a Jewish person. Isn’t that lovely? My family have 4 tickets and we are reform Jews. However I often give any spares to two ultra orthodox Spurs fans. They both wear kippot and one of them looks like every rabbi you’ve ever seen in your haggadah. They get cheered through the streets of Tottenham. They love it! People smile at them, chant ‘Yiddo’ at them and they wear their spurs shirts and their tzitzit with pride. How wonderful is that? In an era where there is so much bitterness and negativity, these two fellas can enjoy their football and their religion and feel totally safe. Thirty years ago that might have not been the case as the bananas hailed down on black wingers and coins were thrown at Jews to see if they would pick them up.

David, I am a huge fan of your work, but in this you are so wide of the mark that I find your view offensive. I find what you are trying to do, actually borderline anti-semetic. Don’t hide away the victims and shut them up because it makes your match day experience difficult. This is Chelsea’s problem. This is West Ham’s problem. This is Leeds United’s problem.

In Germany in 1933, SS men stood outside Jewish shops to deter anyone from entering. In 1934, buses, trains and park benches had seats marked out for us to sit on and our children were taught specifically anti-semetic ideas. In 1935 the Nuremberg Law was passed and Jews lost their rights to be German citizens and marriage between Jews and non-Jews became illegal. You know how this story ends.

In 2013 Jews and non Jews in a small corner of London, are united. Please please please, don’t f**k that up.

Warmest Regards,


Nick Cowan.