Star Czech footballer signs his side’s jersey bearing antisemitic chant

Star Czech footballer signs his side’s jersey bearing antisemitic chant
Ladislav Krejci signing the antisemitic jersey for a fan. / bne IntelliNews
By Albin Sybera May 21, 2024

Star Czech footballer and captain of leading side AC Sparta Prague Ladislav Krejci signed a jersey for a fan which had the slogan “Jude Slavie”, an antisemitic chant frequently used by Sparta’s ultras fans, and the number 88, a numeric abbreviation used in neo-Nazi circles for the “Heil Hitler” Nazi salute, which is illegal in Czechia.

Sparta’s management backed its captain’s actions following the wave of criticism after a photograph of Krejci signing the antisemitic jersey was circulated online, telling the Czech online website the whole affair needs to be understood in the “context of celebrations and hectic atmosphere” following Sparta’s defending of the Czech title.

The scandal has once again exposed the depth of racism among Czech hardcore fans, as well as the lax attitude to it among the Czech football authorities. 

Sparta’s spokesperson Ondrej Kasik issued Krejci’s statement on X/Twitter in which the footballer said he spends time with “tens and hundreds of fans” every week and that “I would never think that somebody could abuse this against us”.

Krejci admitted he is responsible for what he signs, but distanced himself “from any racist views”.

He concluded the tweet by saying “respect to the rival for the heavy battle for the title” in a nod to Sparta’s main rival, SK Slavia Prague, against which Sparta’s ultras fans direct the antisemitic chant “Jude Slavie”. The chant alludes to the Nazi phrase referring to the Jewish population during the Holocaust when some six million perished in concentration camps and atrocities carried out by Nazi units and its allies.

Nearly 80,000 Czech Jews were murdered during the Holocaust when the predominantly German-speaking areas of the country were incorporated into Nazi Germany and the predominantly Czech-speaking areas were under a Nazi protectorate. 

Military analyst Jiri Vojacek pointed out on X/Twitter another photograph of the antisemitic “Jude Slavie” jersey with “at least six more autographs”, adding that an apology is needed from the Sparta side, “not excuses”.

The Krejci scandal brought to the fore the level of racism and anti-semitism prevalent among the far-right ultras fans, not just inside the Sparta fan base, but more generally in Czech football.   

In 2021 UEFA handed a 10-match ban to Slavia’s footballer Ondrej Kudela for whispering racist insults to his opponent from Glasgow Rangers, Glen Kamara, during their sides’ Europa League match. Kudela and his legal team denied the racist nature of the insults and he was backed by the Slavia’s management as well as the country’s populist then president Milos Zeman.

When Glasgow Rangers played Sparta Prague the following season at Sparta’s stadium in Letna, only children accompanied by their relatives could enter the match following UEFA’s measures against Sparta fans. The stadium was still booing at Kamara during the game in disapproval against the ban for Kudela, who as a result missed the Czech national team’s matches during the last European Championship tournament.

Management of both Sparta and Slavia are criticised by Czechia’s liberal journalists for taking a soft stance on the prevalent racism among the fans of the country’s two largest clubs.  

Slavia has this winter been bought from Chinese investors by coal tycoon Pavel Tykac, while Sparta’s majority owner is the country’s energy and media mogul Daniel Kretinsky, who has also been on a shopping spree across Western Europe after capitalising on the energy crisis. Kretinsky is also a co-owner of the Premier League side West Ham United F.C.

Krejci could make the Czech national football squad for the upcoming Euro tournament in Germany next month.