UK Police Nab Arsenal Fans Over Smashing Spurs Stadium as ‘Back to Auschwitz’ Chanters Remain Free
British police have apprehended several suspects for damaging the stadium at White Hart Lane in London, but it appears other fans at the highly anticipated Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur match yesterday — chanting “Back to Auschwitz you go” — are getting off scot-free.
According to Ireland’s The 42 for sport, “A section of Arsenal fans are set to face an investigation from the police and the Football Association after tearing down hoardings at White Hart Lane following Wednesday’s League Cup victory over Tottenham.”
Reports from the game, such as the one from sports writer James Maw of FourFourTwo Magazine, said Arsenal fans began chanting about Auschwitz “in the middle of police escort,” as the match drew to a close following Mathieu Flamini’s 78th-minute goal that ended a two-game drag for Arsenal.
Guardian sports writer Daniel Harris responded to Maw bluntly: “That sh-t should be self-policed.”
Legendary Arsenal player Ian Wright shamed Arsenal fans espousing antisemitic language in a tweet to his million-plus followers, saying: “Gotta say, reading some of the tweets the Spurs fans are sending about what AFC fans say about the Holocaust! Ashamed!”
But fans did more than spout antisemitic slurs from the bleachers. A group of Arsenal fans also decided to start ripping up the Spurs’s stadium as they celebrated, starting with the advertisements hanging from the stands.
Police said the suspects are charged with tearing down banners and destroying perimeter boards.
Antisemitic and Nazi-like chanting is nothing new at European matches. Just last month, a football match in Berlin between TuS Makkabi and BFC Meteor ended in violent brawls and back-and-forth antisemitic and anti-Muslim slurs.
In Utrecht last April, fans from the home team chanted antisemitic rhymes at visiting Ajax Amsterdam, a city apparently renowned for its Jewish community — things like “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas,” and “My father was in the commandos, my mother was in the SS, together they burned Jews, because Jews burn the best!”
Shimon Samuels, director for international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Washington Post that the problem of neo-Nazi manifestations among diehard soccer fans has been an item since the 1980s.
The problem even led the Football Conference at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam to discuss the antisemitism rampant in European soccer. From the Anne Frank House website:
The past decades antisemitism in football context has been a very visible and at times large problem in different countries. In the Netherlands rivalry between Ajax supporters (identified as a ‘Jewish’ club) and supporters of other football clubs caused – often large scale – antisemitic incidents in and around football matches. Apart from that there have been incidents also around football players with an Israeli nationality and with Israeli football clubs.
In England the FA was seeking for solutions for rivalry between Tottenham Hotspurs (identified by rival club supporters as a Jewish club) and fans of other clubs, degenerating in antisemitic incidents. In Germany organised fans are opposing antisemitic incidents in the stadiums, apparently primarily caused by right wing extremist hooligan groups. In Poland problems with antisemitic fans were widely exposed in advance of the Euro 2012-tournament and targeted by UEFA and Polish authorities.
It seems that these problems have a common appearance (antisemitic incidents) but very different roots and contexts. A first look at measures taken by authorities, football organisations an football clubs suggests that in that respect also large differences between countries are visible also.