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Open letter to FIFA on Remembrance Day

Open letter to FIFA on Remembrance Day

From:    Tim Charlesworth, football fan, UK

To:          Gianni Infantino, President, FIFA

11th November 2016

Dear Gianni

FIFA’s allegation that the poppy is a political symbol is an interesting one, and one that is difficult to deny.  It certainly has a symbolic meaning and has the power to move emotions.  You got me thinking about what the meaning of that symbol was.

I write as a pacifist, but I still wear the poppy.  The poppy means different things to different people.  No doubt for some, it represents something of the heroic glory of war and sacrifice, or the triumph of Britain and her allies over her foes.   For me, the poppy just commemorates those who were killed.  It is an emblematic representation of the flowers that can be seen lovingly placed on the graves of lost loved ones throughout Europe and the world.  It may have different meanings for us, but it is one of the few things that unites modern Britons.

I hope the poppy causes no offence to the defeated nations.  I certainly wear mine in remembrance of Germans, French, Indians, Italians, Austrians, Russians and Americans (and those of all nations who fought), every bit as much as in memory of the British people who were killed.  The warmongers of all nations must bear responsibility for what they did, but the innocent people who were their victims should not.  The warm friendship that exists today between the people of Germany and Britain is the most elegant of rebukes to those warmongers, and everything that they got wrong.

To the extent that the poppy is a symbol particular to World War One, that is a conflict that I choose to remember, not to forget, for all the lessons that it can teach humanity.  I probably would have fought in that mindless conflict, if forced to choose (as I would have been if I was the right age at the time).  I might have been a conscientious objector, but somehow this would have felt like a betrayal, allowing other innocents to take my place in the firing line.  It is difficult to know what I, personally, would really have done, but I find it impossible to condemn those that made the choice to fight alongside their fellow men, and paid the price for it.

All wars are tragedies, they destroy the lives of those killed and maimed, and their surviving families.  The roadsides of rural northern Europe are still littered with wild poppies to this day, and their quiet, haunting presence reminds me of the millions of personal tragedies that the wars of the Twentieth Century created.  For me, those gentle flowers recall the silent scream of tortured souls who left this earth, far from family and friends; the twisted, unheard, agony of orphaned children; the unquenchable pain of bereaved mothers.  Above all, I mourn the legion of souls who should be with me today, but never came to this earth; the family trees cruelly and arbitrarily truncated; the children and grandchildren that should have been, if only their ancestors had survived.

The poppy is a symbol of peace, not of discord, a gentle badge of defiant protest against killing.  It commemorates the profusion of poppies that sprouted spontaneously on the quagmired battlefields of Flanders, when the fighting finally ended, literally nourished by the thousands of lost corpses entombed in the cruel mud.  Throughout the conflict the seeds lay dormant, cowed but not defeated, just waiting for their moment.

The poppy is one of nature’s more delicate and stunning wildflowers.  Those poppies of 1918 were the beauty that laid bare the ugliness of war; a symbol of death begetting life; the persistence of delicacy in the face of violence; the victory of nature over the mechanized hell of modern war; a riot of colour to banish the drab grey of destruction; and the triumph of hope over despair.

So, if peace is a political stance; if the beauty of humanity is unacceptable to you; if commemoration is to be outlawed; if colour is tribal, delicacy banished and hope offensive; I stand guilty and pledge, as an ordinary fan, to contribute to the payment of any fine that you levy on the English and Scottish FAs.  I believe others will do likewise.

Yours sincerely

Tim Charlesworth

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8 comments to Open letter to FIFA on Remembrance Day

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    I think the England vs Scotland match will go ahead tomorrow as planned, irrespective whether Fifa will deduct a point each or not from the England’s & Scotland’s World Cup qualifying group stage points tally if they went ahead and play the match.

    Since nothing has been heard again on this contending issue from Fifa up to this moment in time, and England and Scotland are adamant not to forgo this game despite Fifa threatening to punish them if they play the match. As a sacrifice for the showing of humane belief which both England and Scotland believed they should uphold no matter what, England and Scotland players should then go ahead to put on the poppy since it will not be dangerous to them to put it on during the playing of the match.

    Okay, Fifa have a standing Law & Rules on an issue like this one which they are obliged to enforced if breached. But even then, if they take into consideration the humane reason behind the putting on the poppy by players of England and Scotland in their match at Wembley tomorrow which is widely seen as being humanistic in nature, I think Fifa should consider putting on hold any punishment against England and Scotland they have in mind until when they review their Laws & Rules to accommodate a case like putting on of poppy by England and Scotland which they are presently confronted with.

  • Menace

    I will be among those that will contribute through Untold & Arsenal as a group of football loving Arsenal supporters.

  • nicky

    We need take no notice of a corrupt body such as FIFA when it comes to remembering our war dead.
    Their memory is sacrosanct to we of the Commonwealth and this will never change.
    FIFA would do well to reflect on this and should avoid any interference in our remembrance, now and in the future.

  • Dave Ingram

    Hey I have no issue with the poppy but hypothetically Germany want to put the swastika on their shirt would that be ok? If one seemingly innocent “political” image is allowed then we have potential open play for anyone to take over soccer.
    The poppy is not related to soccer neither is the world war. If you want to remember start something like Comrades Marathon where it stands alone in remembrance.

  • Seydlitz

    Just watch rememberance Sunday and you will see why it is a political event.All the so-called great and good and the warmongers faking their concern to for the past dead while killing goes on in the Middle East and the ongoing propogander against Russia by NATO.

  • Menace

    The Swastika is not a German emblem. It is a Hindu sign of luck & is all over houses & temples in India. There were some who claimed it as Aryan but it goes back long before the Aryan ‘visit’ to India. It is not anti anyone in its use in India.

  • Blacksheep

    Dave, I’m not sure you can compare the poppy with the swastika. The poppy is the symbol adopted by the British Legion because it was one of the few things that grew in the blighted soil of Flanders in the immediate aftermath of the ‘Great War’. Hitler misappropriated the Hindu symbol and reversed it – to became a symbol of hate (not luck anyone) and has been banned in Germany under law. So Germany could not legally wear it even if they wanted to (which I’m sure they don’t).

  • omgarsenal

    Dave Ingram…. …..it is apples and oranges: the poppy is an apolitical symbol of rememberance and regret, the swastika (Nazi version) was a political device intended to remind German citizens and conquered nations, that the state was everywhere and in control. It has particularly nasty connotations to jews,Romanisch,and other persecuted peoples.
    It is curious that FIFA does not allow political interference in Football (supposedly) but is quick to judge and interfere when a non-political event becomes political in their eyes!
    What hypocrisy!

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