AMSTERDAM (Aug. 24)
A premier Dutch soccer team has announced it will take strong measures to prevent racist and anti-Semitic views from being expressed at soccer matches.
Ge Voortman, chairman of the Go Ahead Eagles, said the team had recently installed closed-circuit video in its stadium. “Those who will be caught expressing racist views are to be expelled from the stadium for at least half a year,” he said.
Holland has no law to prevent such expressions, which have become commonplace at European soccer matches, and it has proven difficult to root out the instigators.
But Voortman said, “Special arrangements have been made between the club, the police department and the district attorney to prosecute perpetrators on the spot.”
Go Ahead Eagles is the first club to take any action against the growing wave of racist and anti-Semitic sentiments being expressed at soccer matches throughout Europe.
The club has invested some $50,000 in the anti-racist campaign. No other club announced it will follow the initiative yet.
Anti-Semitism and racism at soccer matches has particularly affected Ajax, a soccer team based in Amsterdam known as a “Jews’ club” which nevertheless has no Jews on its lineup. It is not even clear why it is called a Jews’ club.
In fact, only a handful of Jews play professional soccer.
CHANTS OF ‘PLEASE, HITLER. RETURN’
In recent years, groups of soccer fans throughout Europe have been infiltrated by extreme right-wing, racist and fascist movements. Besides unfurling banners with swastikas and other Nazi signs, fans make hissing sounds to imitate the leaking of gas, as a reminder of the Nazi gas chambers.
These racist demonstrators are also prone to yelling: “Please, Hitler, return. You haven’t finished your job yet.”
Older fans, senior citizens born before World War II, are shocked to see how easily a sports event can turn into a neo-Nazi rally.
The racist strains of anti-Semitism and anti-black sentiments have also become melded.
A few weeks ago, Dutch soccer player Aaron Winter was transferred to the Rome-based club Lazio. Italian soccer fans, hearing his Jewish-sounding name, reacted angrily to the news, saying they did not want a Jew to represent their team.
Ironically, Winter is not a Jew. He is black, the son of Hindu parents from Suriname, in South America. His second name, in fact, is Muhammed. He himself is not religious at all.
Until now, neither soccer clubs nor players have spoken up against the problem. Most clubs have tried to push the problem aside by ascribing it to “a changing society,” while claiming the problem should not have to be solved by soccer clubs.
Up until now, Dutch clubs pointed at law-enforcement authorities to solve the problem. In Italy, a special law was passed aiming at preventing racism at soccer games.
In the Netherlands, it seems that there are no legal tools yet at hand.