The latest ridiculous story of 2016 centres around FIFA issuing a ban on the FA allowing their international players to wear poppies on their kits as part of Armistice weekend in November. I’ve yet to see a single person not be outraged with this request, and it’s clear that the issues such a ban raise are immense.
Firstly, the FIFA reasoning for the banning of poppies in football is due to the fact that they represent a ‘political statement’. This is simply untrue. Wearing poppies does not indicate an advocacy for war or conflict, but instead rightfully shows respect to those people who have historically fought for this country, and who continue to do so. Whether you agree with the various conflicts Britain have and are involved with, I’m sure everyone can agree that we should always honour those who have fought for our freedoms and rights. FIFA are going way beyond the scope of their purpose by deciding that British players should not be allowed the right to express their gratitude, just as ordinary members of the public are allowed.
The FIFA rules state that nothing political, religious or commercial should be on the kits of international teams. Their argument about the poppy is that other nations have suffered and are still suffering, so Britain should not be given special treatment to highlight their own history. The point is clear but the context is wrong. Firstly, the poppy is only worn when an international game falls on Armistice weekend, which is obviously only once a year at the very maximum. It is not a political stance because it does not address a particular conflict but more just the countless men and women who have been involved.
Wearing a poppy does not mean that the players are taking a side on any previous or on-going wars; they are showing respect for loss. FIFA’s argument is basically saying that by recognising one country’s suffering, you are disregarding the suffering of other nations, which simply doesn’t correlate. If anything, FIFA should not be banning outlets of showing respect but instead using Britain and the poppies as an example to other nations who feel that they want their country’s suffering to be honoured, and to do so in a respectful but clear way like the FA allow.
Finally, national identity is something that should not be taken lightly. I don’t say this because I am a strong advocator of wearing poppies, but because history and football will always be interlinked, and a ban on recognising that is unnecessary (to put it lightly). Football is a huge part of this country’s culture, and if nothing else, wearing poppies on football kits helps keep our culture and history alive when we face other nations whose cultures we respect in turn. The FA has said they hope to resolve this issue with FIFA, but have announced that England and Scotland will wear the poppies anyway (which may lead to punishment by FIFA of point deduction). Whatever happens with this ban, let’s just hope it gets resolved once and for all, and that FIFA gain some perspective.