For many years racist remarks and antisemitic chants in and around football stadiums were dismissed as ‘innocent’ or ‘isolated incidents’. But the match between FC Den Bosch and Excelsior on 17 November 2019, when Excelsior player Mendes Moirera walked off the field in tears following racist abuse by FC Den Bosch supporters, was a watershed moment. This proverbial ‘last straw’ resulted in the action plan ‘Football is for Everyone’, coordinated by the Dutch football association, the KNVB.
Fair Play workshops for young people and the Chants Project for football supporters, organised by the Anne Frank House, form a part of the action plan. In the Chants Project football supporters follow an intensive day programme to raise their awareness of racist actions on the terraces. A key element of the programme is supporters’ intense loyalty to their club and their city, with an emphasis on the club’s and the city’s history. Supporters immerse themselves in this history, and see the enormous damage caused by the Second World War and the Holocaust. They visit ‘name memorials’ and go to local addresses where people went into hiding from the Nazis. They meet Jewish fellow supporters with moving personal stories: people who share their love for the same club, and who they can identify with as football fans.
Joram Verhoeven and Willem Wagenaar of the Anne Frank House: ‘Time and again we see how supporters are shocked when they learn that their Jewish fellow fans can no longer go to the match because of the antisemitic slogans they’re subjected to. Suddenly the Jew who – according to a notorious chant – should be ‘sent to the gas’ acquires a human face. That realisation has made many supporters resolve to no longer join in with these chants’.
The Anne Frank House started the Chants Project together with Rotterdam club Feyenoord in 2016, and it has also been working together with FC Utrecht for several years. In May 2020 we heard the good news that thanks to a grant from the European Commission we could start work on a European level, with Feyenoord and Borussia Dortmund. In this partnership, titled ‘Changing the Chants’, we can combine our forces and our experience, learn from each other and provide football clubs and other organisations with valuable knowledge and insights.