Our own Harry Madge gives his views on the current debate surrounding the humble poppy’s place in football.
Remembrance Day is fast approaching. A time when we all come together to remember our fallen servicemen and women.
And yet, the only news I see in the media is whether the England and Scotland national football teams will be able to sport the poppy on their strips in their World Cup qualifier on Friday.
As an avid England football supporter and the grandson of a former RAF pilot I was initially outraged at FIFA’s decision to ban the poppy from the match. But is it that big a deal? Is football once again stealing the limelight from something far more important? I think it probably is.
Rewind 29 years to when England last played on Remembrance Day, where substantially more veterans of the two Great Wars were alive in comparison with today. Guess what? Not a poppy in sight. The players got on with their jobs and let the importance of the occasion overshadow what is essentially a game.
But now that seems beyond us as Prime Minister Theresa May even weighed in on the debate during Prime Minister’s Questions last week, criticising FIFA’s “utterly outrageous” decision.
She told MPs that the players just want to “recognise and respect those who have given their lives for our safety and security.”
Mrs May could very well be correct in stating that, but if the players really do want to respect our fallen servicemen and women they can do so in other ways.
They could attend memorial services or post messages of gratitude on the same social media accounts they use to make us very aware of their lavish lifestyles. It will be interesting to see how many of our footballers take that stance.
Despite FIFA banning the poppy on the basis it is a political symbol, the FA released a statement last week stating they don’t believe the poppy “represents a political, religious or commercial message, nor does it relate to any one historical event.”
The statement also confirmed that the England team will wear black armbands bearing poppies in what the FA called an “appropriate tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice”.
Whilst the Football Association does a fantastic job of supporting the Royal British Legion in domestic football, I can’t help but think they’ve made a hash of this very international row with FIFA. If the Football Associations of England and Scotland always planned on displaying the poppy regardless of FIFA’s ban, was there really any need for all these public statements and arguments on the matter?
The FA should have displayed the poppy with pride on Friday having not made any public comment throughout this sordid process. Instead they’ve made a day that should highlight the selflessness of our Armed Forces all about the deeply ingrained selfishness that sadly many already associate with football.