Who's Scoring a 'Jew Goal'?

Soccer Fans Borrow Anti-Semitic Expression for Easy Chance

Who’s a Jew? Arsenal superstar Robin Van Persie scores an easy goal during 5-3 rout of arch-rivals Chelsea. Chelsea fans mocked him on Twitter for scoring ‘Jew goals.’
getty images
Who’s a Jew? Arsenal superstar Robin Van Persie scores an easy goal during 5-3 rout of arch-rivals Chelsea. Chelsea fans mocked him on Twitter for scoring ‘Jew goals.’

By Philologos

Published November 23, 2011, issue of December 02, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Not being an avid soccer fan, I needed an article in the English language edition of the Israeli daily, Haaretz, to alert me to a new expression that has been making the rounds, i.e., a “Jew goal.” As recently defined by Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer, a Jew goal is “an attack on the goal in which one enterprising player does all the running, dribbling and feinting around defenders, [yet] just when he comes up against the goalkeeper, he passes to a teammate who scores the goal with no effort.” In effect, Pfeffer writes, the “glory and riches [go] to a player who has done nothing but stand aside placidly while his teammate has done all the hard work.”

In other words, in soccer as in life, the “Jew” is the parasite who lives off the efforts of others. This makes “Jew goal” a distinctly anti-Semitic turn of phrase.

And yet my first reaction was also to find it a highly puzzling one. Although growing up in America in the 1940s and ’50s, an era in which soccer was as exotic a sport as jai alai or curling, I never played much of it as a boy. I subsequently developed an appreciation for it and now and then even watch it on TV — and I have seen enough of it to know that a “Jew goal” can be one of the game’s supreme delights and achievements. Few soccer moves are more satisfying to watch than those in which a player draws a goalkeeper in his direction to meet the threat of a kick and then flicks the ball sideways to another player who places it in the net from an unprotected-against angle.

He Missed It: Arsenal’s Ivoirian winger Gervinho missed several easy chances in recent games, thereby avoiding being branded as scoring ‘Jew goals.’
getty images
He Missed It: Arsenal’s Ivoirian winger Gervinho missed several easy chances in recent games, thereby avoiding being branded as scoring ‘Jew goals.’

Whole games can go by without this happening once, but it’s always lovely when it does happen. Nor does the credit go only to the first player, the one who has pulled the goalkeeper out of position and forfeited the possible chance to score in order to give a teammate a better chance. The teammate, too, has done his job well. It is no mere coincidence that he is in the right place at the right moment. He is there because he has read and timed the flow of play correctly, and since he has very likely had to run hard to get there, he may have had to field the first player’s pass with his foot or head and direct it toward the goal while moving at full speed. If you think that’s so easy, try it yourself. As executed by both players, it’s soccer at its best.

Why, then, would anyone who doesn’t like Jews want to call this a “Jew goal?”

I realized the answer when I explored the origins of the expression. It started a few years ago, it turns out, not among soccer fans in stadiums, but among players of the popular video game “FIFA Football.” (FIFA is the Fédération de Football Association, the sport’s international governing body, soccer once having been known as “association football” — the word “soccer,” in fact, comes from the “soc” of “association.”) In FIFA Football (since I have never in my life played a video game, my understanding is somewhat theoretical), the player sits in front of a computer, Playstation, or TV screen cum Xbox with a console whose controls enable him to maneuver his players with — if he is skillful — great precision.

Yet not everything calls for the same amount of skill. The greatest is needed, while on offense, to make a player dribble magically with the ball á la Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi and dodge his way around a goalkeeper; far less expertise is called for to hit a pass button that sends the ball to someone else. For many video enthusiasts, therefore, passing to a better positioned teammate instead of confronting the goalkeeper in a one-on-one duel is not, as in real soccer, the right thing to do, but rather a dishonorable way of scoring an easy goal. As one FIFA Footballer put it to another in a comment on a FIFA football blog I came across, “Scoring a Jew goal is almost the same as a low kick in a fighting game.”

The odd thing is that this usage has now spread from FIFA Football to real soccer. Thus, for example, an article earlier this month in London’s Jewish Chronicle complained that in an Arsenal-Chelsea match at Stamford Bridge, Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie was mocked on Twitter by Chelsea fans for scoring “Jew goals.” Apparently, Arsenal should have played in a more manly fashion and lost, instead of winning “Jewishly” by a score of 5-3.

Anti-Semitic slurs are never welcome, but if playing soccer with one’s brains and not only with one’s skull is considered the “Jewish” thing to do, we can take this one as a backhanded compliment. The next time a deft, team-spirited pass leaves a goalkeeper flat-footed and helpless, we should all be on our feet shouting, “Jew goal! Jew goal! Jew goal!”

Questions for Philologos can be sent to philologos@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.