Supporting your team abroad has its dangers, as does being a ‘Yid’ overseas
The violence inflicted on 51-year-old Spurs fan, Paul Eccles (above), who feared for his life during a gang attack in Lyon on Wednesday, is a deplorable act that has no home or place in something as simple and relatively meaningless as football.
Prior to Spurs’ game with Lyon in the Europa League on Thursday night, Mr Eccles and his 20-year-old son Patrick were set upon by a group of around 20 men, before being dramatically hidden from further assault by concerned locals. This followed an attack on the Smoking Dog pub, which was full of Spurs fans at the time.
An anonymous fan said in The Guardian: “There were 50 who attacked in the first wave and 25 in the second. It’s a pretty scary thing when you’re confronted by people doing Nazi salutes.”
The incident is the second inflicted upon Spurs fans in Europe this season, following the attack on a supporters in a Rome bar before their group stage match with Lazio in October last year, with both bearing the marks of anti-Semitism.
And with Spurs returning to Italy on March 14 for the quarter-final clash with Inter, preparations against any further violence should be taken seriously to avoid a fan needlessly dying in support of their team.
Tottenham fans are now increasingly vulnerable on their travels from far-right groups supposedly responsible for the latest attack, but limited advice is currently available to them. The Foreign Office offers specific guidance to fans travelling abroad, but not to Spurs fans in spite of previous incidents, while the FSF’s away ground doesn’t yet cover mainland Europe and the FA had no information on their website. Fans however, can also play their part in their own safety too.
Spurs supporters are in a unique position amongst top flight English football teams thanks to the history of the club’s support and association with the local Jewish community. Proudly displaying this connection, fans collectively refer to themselves as ‘Yids’ – a potentially racist and offensive term that supporters maintain has been reclaimed to promote unity and togetherness in much the same way the black community have done so with similarly offensive language.
In the context of their club the word ‘Yid’ is meaningless apart from to show support for the team and its players, but the word has wider implications in society, particularly to fascist thugs who see it as an excuse to inflict mindless violence and physically exert their views, something which Mr Eccles found to his cost.
“To us, [using the term ‘Yids’] is our badge, it’s what we are. It’s a throwaway term that we use for ourselves,” he told BBC Sport.
“Over here, it’s a lot more focused. Sadly, I think that’s what this [attack] was all about.”
The recent increase in violence has troubled the MP for Tottenham, David Lammy.
“I think it is very alarming that in the space of a few months fans travelling abroad have been attacked and set upon in this way.
“The suggestions that neo-Nazi salutes and phraseology were used is deeply worrying. I think Spurs fans will be feeling very vulnerable now.”
However, ex-Met officer, Chris Hobbs, who was tasked with policing football before he retired in 2011, believes fans need to take greater responsibility for their safety when travelling, referring to footage of clashes between fans in Lyon and another team with Jewish links, Ajax, in November 2011.
“I heard fans say they didn’t think they would have a problem in Lyon but it wouldn’t take a lot of research to see there is a problem there and they’ve walked straight into it” he said.
In fact, a report by the security unit of France’s Jewish communities revealed anti-Semitic acts in the country rose by 58%, to 614 recorded incidents last year, compared to 389 the year before.
Bernie Kingsley, a member of the Tottenham Supporters Club, believes though that he attacks aren’t necessarily racially motivated.
“People use racial differences as an excuse for something which is just violence.”
Even if this proves to be the case and hooligans are using the club’s Jewish connection as an excuse for violence, fans should be ultra vigilant of their new surroundings and aware that the use of the “throwaway term” ‘Yid’ has wider implications when removed from domestic football, particularly in the eyes of the rising number of fascist thug in Europe, while recognition of the problem by the game’s governing bodies will go a long way to promoting an increased awareness in travelling fans.Tags: Europa League, Inter Milan, Lyon, Premier League, Tottenham Hotspur
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