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Ajax seek image change to stop anti-Semitic chants

AFP, via The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), France
Jan. 12, 2005 • Wednesday January 12, 2005

Amsterdam: Dutch giants Ajax are eager to discard their image as a Jewish club in a bid to end anti-Semitic chanting in the crowd at games, club chairman John Jaakke has announced in his new year’s speech.

“Ajax is being presented as a Jewish club and some of our supporters have taken to calling themselves Jews as an honorary nickname … I want to state for the record that Ajax wants to shed this image and will do what is necessary to achieve this,” Jaakke said at the weekend.

Ajax spokesman Simon Keizer said there was little basis for the club’s Jewish image. “It might be due to the fact that in the 1960s there were several players of Jewish descent,” he told AFP on Monday.

After supporters of opposing teams started calling Ajax fans Jews, the fans adopted the name themselves. Ajax fans wave the Israeli flag and have banners featuring the Star of David.

“I am sure our supporters have no anti-Semitic feelings,” Jaakke said. “However, in a tense society such as we live in today, it can stir such feelings in others.”

Former Ajax board member Uri Coronel, who is Jewish, told Het Parool newspaper that Ajax fans calling themselves Jews stirred anti-Semitic reactions from supporters of rival clubs.

Many anti-Ajax chants refer to the Holocaust. Rival fans chant “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas” and make hissing sounds to imitate the sound of gas flowing.

“The paradox that we have the image of being a Jewish club but that many Jews find it difficult to visit our games has to end,” Jaakke said.

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