Tottenham Hotspur And Ajax, Soccer’s Two ‘Jewish’ Teams, To Square Off In Champions League Tuesday

Tottenham Hotspur's stadium
Mike Hewitt / Getty Images

The two teams that will play each other Tuesday afternoon in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League, the London-based Tottenham Hotspur and the Amsterdam-based AFC Ajax, have a great deal in common. Both clubs are underdogs in the European tournament, and both have gotten much further in the tournament than they typically do.

But there’s another thing that the two sides have in common: Both are known as the “Jewish” teams in their respective leagues.

Tottenham Hotspur, per The Jewish Chronicle, have been associated with London’s Jewish community going back to the 1930s. The club represented a predominantly Jewish area of London in their early days, and this led to anti-Semitic abuse from opposing fans. Supporters of Tottenham decided to claim that identity, referring to themselves as “Yids,” and even chanting “Yid Army” at matches. “Yid Army” also became the name of the hooligan firm associated with the club.

More recently, as European soccer has become more popular internationally, many Jewish fans in the United States and elsewhere have adopted Tottenham as their club of choice for that reason. However, there has been controversy over the chants, with Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, per The JC, asking fans to stop using the “Yid Army” phrase. There were reports of anti-Semitic chants as recently as this month by West Ham fans, per The Daily Star.

Ajax’s story is similar, as the club’s home stadium was located near a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Amsterdam in the 1930s. There was a similar dynamic in which supporters of the club reacted to anti-Semitism by adopting Jewish slogans, even referring to themselves as “Superjews,” which was also the name of a documentary about Ajax fan culture. In more recent years, Ajax has begun to phase out usage of the Jewish terms.

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Both clubs have occasionally had Jewish players, although neither has any currently. And fans of both have been known to wave Israeli flags at matches.

Per the UEFA website, the two clubs’ only other matchup in European competition was in the 1981/1982 European Cup Winners’ Cup, with Tottenham winning 6-1 in a two-match aggregate.

Tottenham and Ajax will play the first leg of their Champions League match at Tottenham Hotspure Stadium at 3 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, with the second leg scheduled for the same time eight days later, on May 8. Barcelona and Liverpool will play in the other semifinal, beginning on Wednesday. The matches will air on TNT in the U.S.