The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff


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Well this is a farce in a bucket, isn’t? A well-meaning but ignorant complaint leads to protests and what was an exciting international friendly (if an international friendly can be exciting) is now overshadowed by politics.

What will now no doubt become known as “Poppygate” has quickly spiralled out of control, but you can’t say FIFA didn’t warn them. They have a ban against political symbols these days, to prevent throwbacks to the days of teams doing Nazi salutes and the like, and like it or not, the poppy is a political symbol – it is a symbol of remembrance for British and Commonwealth war dead, i.e. on one side of the two world wars and all wars since, and primarily soldiers, i.e. those people that kill other people at the behest of politicians. OK, so those pushing for the Home Nations’ national sides to wear them this weekend meant well, but they don’t seem to understand this simple fact, or that if FIFA were to make an exception, they would then face pressure from various other nations who would push for their national sides to wear more contentious symbols on their kits, and god knows where that would lead to…

Today, it’s all gone up a gear. FIFA have blocked the FA’s protests and now to totally prove that it’s definitely not a political issue, noted politician David Cameron has said he will write a very angry letter to FIFA complaining angrily that this makes him angry (no doubt signed “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells”), noted politician Ed Miliband has also spoken out against the decision, and the not-at-all-political-or-racist political group the English Defence League are staging a not-at-all-political protest against the decision on the roof of FIFA HQ in Zurich. And of course all the complaints in the tabloid media aren’t at all coming from papers who hate FIFA because they didn’t give us the 2018 World Cup. Not at all.

What I can’t understand is why a black armband and a minute’s silence before the game is suddenly not enough. This for me says two things: firstly, the changing attitudes towards the poppy in Britain today, where it is being seen as increasingly compulsory to wear one in the increasingly long run-up to Remembrance Day, which isn’t at all sinister at all; and secondly, that the black armband is now so ridiculously overused that it has lost its meaning and thus is deemed not enough to suffice.

The problem is, if it continues to become increasingly necessary to wear one in public life, surely the time will come where the poppy itself will lose its meaning. In fact, I think it has already. The heart of the issue – that it’s a symbol of remembrance – seems to have been lost in all the political point-scoring from the major parties, and the adoption of it as a symbol of nationalism by a racist, xenophobic far right protest organisation seemingly blissfully ignorant of the fact that those that the poppy is supposed to remember fought against a nation run by a political party with political views ideologically similar to theirs. Not that many of them know what “ideologically” means, anyway…

It’s also why I don’t wear one. After all, it doesn’t make you any less of a person not to wear one, and nor does it mean you have any less respect for those that gave their lives for us. Ultimately, it’s just a flower. In fact, it’s not even that – it’s just the likeness of a flower. The problem is, despite what they may tell you, it has been hijacked by politics, along with the Union Jack, the St George’s Cross, and the football match this Saturday. Shame, I was looking forward to it too.


Written by James Bennett

November 9, 2011 at 17:04

2 Responses

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  1. Good post. Forget about a career with the BBC though…


    November 10, 2011 at 07:55

    • …and pretty much any tabloid newspaper

      Good. Fuck ’em. Although that probably now means no chance of a job anywhere

      James Bennett

      November 10, 2011 at 19:30

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