FIFA (in their infinite wisdom) have decided that the remembrance poppy is a ‘political symbol’ and therefore should not be sported by players of England and Scotland in their forthcoming World Cup qualifier.
Not surprisingly, as this game takes place on the 11 November (the traditional day of remembrance of those who have fallen in all wars since the Great War 1914-18), this has caused much lamentation, condemnation and gnashing of teeth. Even the Prime Minister has got involved calling FIFA’s actions ‘utterly outrageous’.
Now I will nail my colours to the mast early doors. I think Poppy Day is worth marking. I always buy a poppy and wear it, and I stop work at the 11th hour on the 11th day of November (the point at the which the 1918 armistice came into force) and observe a 2 minutes silence. On Friday 11 November this year I will take my third year history students outside and we will bow our head and pay our respects to the dead.
However, whilst I think we should mark it and believe that the players of the home nations should mark it (and wear the appropriate armbands as they intend to) I don’t think we can call it anything other than a ‘political act.
I asked my colleague who teaches military history (and the First World War in particular) and he declared the poppy to be a political symbol. After all one definition would be: ‘Political symbolism is symbolism that is used to represent a political standpoint’, and war is a political act.
Governments go to war for political ends and those that kill on a battlefield do so sanctioned by the politics that send them there. By remembering the fallen we are reminding ourselves that these men and women died defending our traditions, our way of life, culture, freedoms, from those that would impose their political ideology or colonial ambitions on us.
War is political and so the poppy is political. FIFA are correct.
However, FIFA are hypocrites and if they wish to ban the poppy they need to ban ALL political symbols.
Such as national flags, national emblems and national anthems.
When Scotland line up against England later this month both teams will display symbols on their shirts. England have the 3 lions – a medieval symbol of the Plantagenet rulers of England. The lions represent the Kingdom of England, the Duchy of Normandy and the Duchy of Aquitaine (the latter both in France of course).
Scotland’s shirts bear the cross of St Andrew and the lion rampant, another heraldic device linking back to their ancient rights as an independent nation. In 2013 the Scots also issued a new shirt which contained a reference to Bannockburn, the famous victory of the Bruce* over Edward II’s Anglo-Norman army outside Stirling.
Was this not a political symbol? Is singing the National Anthem not a ‘political’ act?
One might well argue that FIFA and UEFA are quasi-political organisations anyway, despite their protestations that they are merely sporting bodies. By granting the World Cup to Qatar and Russia – both nations with highly dubious democratic credentials – they are acting politically. In a very basic sense politics (from the Greek – politikos, means “of, for, or relating to citizens”) ‘is the process of making decisions applying to all members of each group’. So FIFA (in acting as they have) are being ‘political’ and the FIFA symbol itself is therefore a ‘political symbol’.
I note that having had it pointed out that the Irish FA had let their players sport a reference to the Easter Rising in 1916 this year, FIFA are now investigating with the intention of issuing some sort of retrospective punishment. So nice of them to notice, seven months later. One wonders if the same ‘agents’ FIFA use to ‘police’ this sort of activity also check whether their accredited referees actually know the laws of the game?
So, in my humble opinion, this fuss about the wearing of poppies is a farce. It demonstrates that FIFA without or without Sepp Blatter in charge, are out of touch.
Gianni Infantino is little better than his predecessor and the organisation is not fit to run world football. It grants the World Cup to rogue states that invade their neighbours, (allegedly) undermine democracy in other states, employ hackers to infiltrate other countries’ systems, and use torture on their own people. When you consider then what they DO allow its a bit rich for them to tell the English and Scottish FAs that they can’t commemorate the sacrifice of millions of ordinary British, Commonwealth and other nations’ men and women in numerous modern conflicts.
The FAs are going to ignore FIFA anyway and take whatever punishment Infantino and his chums hand out. We should go further in my opinion, and opt out of the next two World Cups unless FIFA decide to start revising who they award them to. But that is perhaps too much to hope for.
* not Forsyth
From the Arsenal History Society
The Arsenal History Society publishes numerous series of articles exploring different aspects of Arsenal’s history. You can find an index to all the series to date on the Society’s web site.