But while this might be an attempt to create some plausible deniability for the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes based on historical notions of Jews as “enemies” to the Polish nation, the justification is hard to accept. And to understand why there’s a little more to it than just football, it helps to look back to the history of the Polish game in the 1930s.
Consistent with other discriminatory laws at the time, which excluded Jews from most spheres of public life, some clubs, including Wisła Krakow, Warta Poznań and AKS Chorzów banned ‘non-Polish’ players from playing for them, and appealed to the Polish Football Association to adopt a similar approach throughout Poland. Despite this pressure, the Polish FA, with the support of other clubs including Cracovia, ŁKS Łódź and Pogoń Lviv, refused, and defended the rights of Jewish players and those from other ethnic minorities to continue playing for Polish clubs. As a result of their stance, for some, Cracovia came to symbolise a more inclusive vision of Polish society. However, for others, they were disparagingly labelled as a ‘Jewish’ club, which took on almost indelibly negative connotations when contrasted with Krakow’s ‘Polish’ club Wisła.
Cracovia’s identity as a ‘Jewish Club’ has led to some comparisons with North London side Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs), whose own Jewish heritage means that some of their supporters controversially self-identify as the ‘Yid Army’. Tottenham fans explain the use of the name as a way of reclaiming this anti-Jewish slur after its frequent use as an insult against them in the 1970s by far-right fans of their rivals. And it remains relatively common to hear the word used in anti-Tottenham chants today, most notably from supporters of London rivals Chelsea.