FIFA gets it wrong � again

  | James Innes

FIFA, football’s world-governing body, has not enjoyed the best of recent years, engulfed in corruption scandals, and with many of its leading officials either under investigation or banned from the game. So it seems very unfortunate that it should seeks to tarnish its damaged image even further by now choosing to threaten the Football Associations of England and Scotland with sanctions if their players wear commemorative poppies, either on their shirts or on armbands, during a match.

This year, a football fixture between the old enemies, in sporting terms, happens to fall on November 11th, the date commemorated in many countries as Armistice Day. For many years, it has been the tradition in Britain for people to wear poppies in public in the run up to the anniversary, and officials and players from both countries want to reflect this as a mark of respect during the forthcoming World Cup Qualifier.

However, FIFA have a ban on political, religious or commercial advertising and have threatened both countries with fines, or even a points’ deduction, if they proceed as planned.

In this case, FIFA have got it all wrong. The poppy is not a political or religious symbol, but a tribute to the brave men and women who lost their lives or were injured in the course of the World Wars and the numerous other conflicts that have marred the 20th and the 21st centuries. It is precisely because the poppy is apolitical that makes it important. When people commemorate each year, they are remembering all those who sacrificed so much – whether they were white or black, Christian, Hindu, Jew or Muslim, Catholic or Protestant, rich or poor, conservative, liberal or communist. All sections of society suffered and are worthy of our memory. And whilst people in the UK will primarily think of the British, Irish or Commonwealth citizens that suffered and died, there is an understanding and acknowledgement that, for the most part, those they fought against were just as brave and suffered as much.

Take a trip through Northern France or Belgium, and stop at any one of the immaculately maintained cemeteries run by the Imperial War Graves Commission. There you will row upon row of graves; some marked with a name and others just with the epitaph “an unknown soldier”. And, far from the cemetery being just the preserve of the British, Irish, Indian, Australian, Canadian, South African or any of the legion of nationalities that fought on the allied side in the First World War, you will also find German soldiers laid to rest with the same care as their former adversaries, brothers in arms for eternity.

So FIFA should respect the poppy for what it is and what it means, and let English and Scottish players, officials and fans commemorate the day as they see fit. Perhaps with a little more tolerance of the views of others, some of the events we commemorate on November 11th could have been avoided.

Have your career documents written by the professionals!
Order Now