Rival football clubs Ajax and Feyenoord are set to face-off once again tomorrow, what is always the most anticipated and intense match of the year: de Klassieker.
Ajax is from Amsterdam, Feyenoord is from Rotterdam. This alone would be cause enough for rivalry, as these are the two largest cities in the country; but they are also among the most succesful teams in Dutch football. During their apogee in the early nineteen-seventies, they were unequivocally the best teams in the world. (Ajax has since enjoyed a second streak of success, winning the 1995 UEFA Champions League and the World Cup for club teams, while Feyenoord won the 2002 UEFA Cup. For most of their European ventures, however, they’ve been reduced to also-rans.)
Terms of endearment
Their rivalry has led to mutual abuse and derision amongst supporters. Feyenoord supporters are called ‘peasants’, entirely in keeping with the Amsterdam tradition of scorning all outsiders as bumpkins (and despite the fact that not a few of the Ajax firm hail from the city’s hinterland). Ajax supporters are called ‘Jews’, although Ajax has never been an especially Jewish club.
I expect that the Judaic moniker originated as a taunt and a slight, and was subsequently adopted as a badge of honour. (In Dutch, this is known as Geuzennaam)
The Ajax firm proudly displays huge banners emblazoned with the Israeli flag, and call themselves ´Superjews’.
Feyenoord supporters will tell you that the term is not antisemitic. This may well be true: men and women may scorn a member of their own gender by means of anatomical invective involving the very sex organs that they both possess, without implying that such body parts are essentially despicable. Ajax supporters certainly sing with relish about bombing Rotterdam, without attracting the accusation of harbouring pro-German sympathies.
Yet, the phrase stings, even if we take into account the fact that peasants have suffered for centuries during Europe’s many wars. It does suggest that being called a Jew is an affront to one’s honour. Unlike the word ‘nigger’ , Jew is not necessarily a slur. (A better example would be ‘Yid’, which Tottenham Hotspur supporters – most of whom are not Jewish, either – use to describe themselves.)
And unlike ‘nigger’, it has not been turned into a term of endearment by the people it is used to insult. It has instead been adopted by a group whose members are overwhelmingly not Jewish, whether by descent or by religion. The name is likely to be perpetuated, in the contrarians’ unreal manner of speech.
Quenelle des modernes
A recent addition to the contrarians’ arsenal is the quenelle. The quenelle is a gesture in which one stretches one’s arm diagonally downward while clutching one’s shoulder with the opposite hand. As the gesture makes one look like a Parkinsons’s disease patient, it is no wonder that the quenelle is thought of as an updated version of the Hitler salute.
The quenelle was invented by French comedian Dieudonné, who claims the gesture is merely a sendup of the powers that be. (He has also made a singularly appalling ditty about the Holocaust, which I will not discuss further.) Both the gesture and the ditty are said to unite Senegalese, Moroccans and white Frenchmen, necks craned over their little devices as they seek out places to perform the quenelle, preferably ones that will cause an uproar and cause other cretins to snicker or howl.
How can one counter such callous banter? Perhaps we could take a cue from the insults that fans of Feyenoord and Ajax hurl at each other. (Dieudonné is strictly anti-zionist, just as the Feyenoord firm is strictly anti-Ajax and not the least bit antisemitic.)
One could deluge the comedians and his supporters with racist abuse according to their descent, but some of them may have become inured to such treatment.
As Dieudonné is Black, one could ask him if he fondly remembers the murder of Black French prisoners of war by the Wehrmacht and if he would have the gall to perform the quenelle in Moscow, where Black people are not welcome and where the French already beat a hasty retreat once. Some of the Russian crowds that prey on coloured people have no qualms about giving a full-blown Hitler salute, but would surely be outraged by a Black man donning their trappings.
Alas, the particulars of bigotry decay with imprecision. Où sont les nègres d’antan?