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Why are Ajax and Spurs fans so connected to Jewish symbolism?

Super Jews on one side, Yid Army on the other

Why are Ajax and Spurs fans so connected to Jewish symbolism? Super Jews on one side, Yid Army on the other

Juventus Stadium, 16th of April, 2019: Ajax's youngsters score another miracle after the one against Real Madrid, recovering the initial disadvantage and defeating the home team 1- 2. The "lancers" are into the semifinals, the players are incredulous, the coach Ten Hag runs into the field to hug everyone. Sky cameras move to the visitor section where, from a mass of bare-chested Ajax supporters, the flag of Israel suddenly emerges, taut and clearly visible. The cameras immediately return to the field.

For most television viewers it was nothing more than a curious and random episode. But there is a very specific reason behind the appearance of that Star of David in the away sector of the Juventus Stadium. The Jewish symbolism used by many of Ajax's hooligans does not stop here; tattooed David stars, flags, chants (it's quite common to hear the Hava Nagila) in Hebrew and above all a name: "Super Jews".

Amsterdam is traditionally considered a Jewish city, known in the first half of the twentieth century as the "Western Jerusalem". Before the Second World War, 80,000 of the 140,000 Jews present the Netherlands lived in the Dutch city - most of them being Ajax fans. The reason is simple: Jodenbuurt (the historic Jewish ghetto in the center of the city) is just ten minutes away by car or public transport from the current Amsterdam ArenA. An extended and very strong community, that saw itself reduced by 75% at the end of the Second World War; today the Jewish soul of the city is therefore weakened compared to those years. Despite the fact that the urban fabric has lost its strong connection to Hebraic culture and religion, the Ajax fans have maintained a Jewish identity which they've flaunted aggressively and the Dutch club is still considered linked to its origins, also thanks to the presence of managers and Jewish players in the club's history, especially during the 60s and 70s.

The objective presence of a cultural background of Jewish origin only partially explains the choice of Ajax's most ardent fans to call themselves "Super Jews". They are individuals who have nothing to do with that culture but who choose to identify themselves by it for a strictly, sports related, reason. Throughout history, rivalries with other supporters (especially Feyenoord and ADO Den Haag, the football team of The Hague) are often boundless in anti-Semitic offenses against Ajax fans have given the club's cultural background: hence the identification with everything it represents Jewish culture, a real reaction that has nothing to do with religion or politics. The star of David for many has become a symbol of the team as much as the Ajax head stylized in the coat-of-arms of the club: it has been stripped of all meaning, becoming an extension of the identity of the fans.


The problem with this association between supporters and Jewish culture is that it has repercussions outside the world of football. The Jews who live in Amsterdam today (even those who are Ajax fans) strongly dislike the "Super Jews", considering them offensive: the history of the Jewish diaspora and the still open wound of the Shoa have often instilled a sense of shame in the Jews scattered across Europe, often ashamed of their origins, and constantly fearful of being recognized and identified exclusively as Jews. Seeing people who adorn themselves with the symbols of their own culture, displaying them proudly, causes confusion and resentment in many. A very complex subject, to the point that the director Nirit Peled in 2013 made a documentary about it called "Superjews", in which it collects opinions of fans and true Jews, investigating the identity of both to understand if the "football conversion" of these people can be considered real and comparable to the culture of the director, a Jew because she was born of Jewish parents, but not practicing. The Israeli flag is full of complex political and social meanings, representing one of the most controversial pages of recent contemporary history. To see it waving during a football match, stripped down of all meaning, must not be an image that is easy to digest for many, who rightly see an extreme simplification of their complex culture. A sensation also well illustrated by one of the key scenes of the documentary, in which the director is surrounded by fans at the stadium who, at a particularly intense moment of the game, begin to sing "who does not jump is not a Jew": everyone around her leaps in the stands while she remains astonished and immobile.

The Super Jews not only arouse the pain inside the delicate question of Jewish identity and history, but they also expose people very far from the world of football to a violence that they do not deserve. The "Dokwerker Statue" serves as a reminder of February 25, 1941, the day on which the city of Amsterdam came together to strike against the anti-Semitic laws imposed by the Germans. It is obviously positioned inside the Jewish ghetto, not far from the house of Anne Frank: at the beginning of last March some ADO fans smeared the statue of green and yellow, the corporate colors of the Hague team; not satisfied, they also painted swastikas in the nearby streets. Only a month before, Feyenoord fans had been recorded singing the horrible words: "My father was with the command, my mother with the SS. Together they burned the Jews because the Jews burn best".

Acts that have sparked controversy throughout Holland. The clashes between supporters attract a ferocious anti-Semitism that only affects those who have nothing to do with football. The Dutch Football Association has decided to take care of the problem, increasing the fines and trying to educate the younger fans.


The Fate decided that just two seasons after the meeting in the Europa League, Ajax's "Super Jews" will meet Tottenham's "Yid Army" in the Champions League semifinals. The English club has a very similar background to the Dutch one: Tottenham represents the North-East of London, an area where Jewish immigration was concentrated at the beginning of the twentieth century. Among the English terraces, it is possible to glimpse flags with the Star of David (it happened a few days ago at the Etihad Stadium, at the end of the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City) and listen to choirs that refer to the Jewish tradition.

The mechanism that led Tottenham supporters to adopt this identity is identical to that of Ajax: a reaction to the anti-Semitic offenses suffered, especially during the years of fierce hooliganism, the 70s and 80s of the last century. The problem here is also related to the chosen name. "Super Jews" is a name that, given its ambiguity, does not immediately arouse strange feelings, having a positive literal connotation; "Yid" is, instead, an offensive word for Jews, used today only in anti-Semitic contexts, completely unused except by the Tottenham supporters, who are shielding themselves from criticism affirming the same thing as those of Ajax: it has nothing to do with religion and culture, it's the demonstration of a sense of pride for the team and its history. The president of Tottenham himself, Daniel Philip Levy, is a jew, but unlike Ajax, English society has never stood against the use of Jewish culture by its supporters, defending them in an episode that saw the supporters and clubs of Chelsea and Tottenham opposed.

We can therefore expect to see the Star of David in the stands while Ajax and Tottenham will be on the field unless the authorities seriously intervene, which happens punctually when Palestinian flags are glimpsed, for example in the Celtic Glasgow fan sector. In addition to the result on the pitch there is to follow the meeting between two such peculiar and controversial fans: both victims of anti-Semitism but whose reactions to the phenomenon immediately triggered further controversy, in a game of mirrors that is dangerous and not very respectful towards those who have nothing to do with football.