Top Dutch Soccer Player Steven Berghuis Targeted by Lurid Antisemitic Mural After Signing for ‘Jewish’ Club Ajax
A top Dutch soccer player who announced on Monday that he had signed for a top-flight team associated by some fans with the Jewish community has been targeted by a lurid, Nazi-style wall mural.
29-year-old winger Steven Berghuis was depicted wearing a concentration camp uniform marked with a “Judenstern,” or “Jews’ Star.” He was also shown wearing a kippah and with an outlandishly large “Jewish” nose.
A slogan alongside the drawing declared, “Jews always run away.”
The mural appeared following the news that Berghuis, who also plays for the Dutch national team, was leaving Rotterdam side Feyenoord for their bitter Amsterdam-based rivals, Ajax. It was removed a few hours later.
While Ajax has no formal ties to the Dutch Jewish community, some fans of the club style themselves as “Joden” — “Jews” — and wave Israeli flags at matches. Matches featuring Ajax have frequently been disrupted by the antisemitic chants of opposing fans, including “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.”
The Dutch Jewish organization CIDI, which monitors and counters antisemitism in the Netherlands, said it had a filed legal complaint with police. A spokesperson for the group said there was a “good chance” that the creator of the mural would be tracked down and arrested through CCTV images.
“This image is extremely discriminatory against Jews and can’t be dismissed as just being about Ajax,” the CIDI spokesperson said.
A statement released by Feyenoord condemned the mural but refrained from apologizing “because it is not yet know who did it or their relationship to the club,” a representative said.
However, the representative continued, if the culprit did turn out to be a Feyenoord supporter, that person would be “banned from the club’s stadium for life.”
The representative added that Feyenoord had “been working for many years to combat antisemitism,” among its fanbase. “This ranges from webinars and workshops to educational trips to Auschwitz and Birkenau,” the representative said.
But one well-known Feyenoord fan with ties to both the club’s board as well as the clubs “ultras” — hardcore, sometimes violent fans — insisted that the mural was a legitimate expression of fan anger with Berghuis.
“I think it’s a beautiful drawing,” Gijs van Delft, a photographer, told local news outlets. Asked about the Nazi-style Jewish star worn by Berghuis in the drawing, van Delft responded that “Christians also walk with a cross. I really don’t understand the problem. It’s satire, you can do anything with it.”
He continued: “It’s not that everyone thinks that Jews should be gassed. We always talk about ‘football Jews.’ Football hooliganism is never going to go away. Antisemitism is never going to go away.”