The BIG Question: Should England Be Allowed To Wear Poppies At Wembley?

Chris Wright

8th, November 2011


By Chris Wright

It’s a quandary that has been playing on the minds of many-an English football for the last few days: Why won’t big bad, Nazi-sympathising, Holocaust-denying FIFA allow brave England to play with Poppies embroidered on their shirts against Spain at Wembley on Saturday? At least, that’s how the Daily Mail would have it.

Sepp Blatter and co. have stood firm despite having their decision to refuse any such emblem being added to England’s shirts with an adult-size serving of righteous indignation from the press circles, citing FIFA’s sartorial ruling that a international side’s kit cannot be modified in any way after the initial design has been okayed by football’s governing body.

Of course, to those incensed this looks like a textbook example of bureaucratic dilly-dallying on FIFA’s part – hiding behind ridiculous, self-interested, tailor-made bylaws to prevent England observing a national tradition and honouring the men that fell in the Great War.

To the vast majority of Europe, the Poppy stands as a simple symbol of commemoration and appreciation for the men that spilt their blood in the fields of Flanders in WW1. Ask the Catholic/Nationalist population of Northern Ireland what the Poppy symbolises to them, and you’ll probably find you get a rather different answer. Therein lies the problem.

The wider picture is that, by allowing England to wear the Poppy, FIFA would be opening a veritable Pandora’s Box of political issues that would be much better off staying closed and sealed tightly – there’s no need for football, a game that we’ve seen humbly transcend even the most gruesome of socio-political issues, to go wading in and allowing certain countries to observe certain memorials with overt symbols of their allegiances and block others on entirely subjective grounds.

Indeed, who are FIFA (as I say, the governing body of football – nothing more, nothing less) to go championing or denigrating specific causes, charities and tributes?

It’s not often you find yourself siding with them, but FIFA ha’ve made a perfectly rational decision in barring the Poppy, regardless of how irrational it may seem on the surface.

Posted in Featured, International football, Opinion

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  1. Tom says:

    Same thing can be said about the christian cross of Portugal or the muslim moon and crescent of Turkey. Both advertise a social belief/religion that NOT all people within that country even follow. Should a portuguese muslim have to play in a shirt that has cross on it or should a christian have to do it with a muslim symbol if he was Turkish. The pandora’s box you speak of is already open. Sport should not be a place to throw out social and political beliefs but for entertainment.

  2. Tom says:

    Also adding that both those 2 countries are secular governments to begin with.

  3. Jack Wheeler says:

    I’d refuse to play if I wasn’t allowed

  4. Bepo says:

    Yes, that’s right, don’t allow a bloody poppy because someone could interpret its symbolism differently. But do organize a World Cup in a country that still uses the Sharia law. Lovely.

  5. Mr. Sparkle says:

    Well the easiest solution to this problem would be to move the game so it doesn’t fall on anywhere near November 11th. However, England or any Home Nation which wishes to partake in the commemoration should be allowed to do so. It’s a one game maybe two game thing. Fifa like any bureaucratic body lead by a despotic moron, is unmoveable.

  6. Steve K says:

    This is the first article I’ve read that actually attempts to see it from FIFA’s point of view. If you let England have the poppy, it’s only a matter of time until another country want a slightly more contentious symbol displayed on their shirts. Imagine if say, Israel or Afghanistan wanted to comemorate their fallen heroes in such a way, I’m sure some people would find it a little distasteful. It’s not FIFA’s place to say who is deserving of tribute or not.
    They’d be constantly trying to draw the line at what is acceptable and what isn’t. It’s just easier if they draw the line at “None”, it’s not their place to comment, and fair play to them for sticking to that.

  7. Chris says:

    @Tom: Very true, though a country’s badge (as sanctioned by and registered with FIFA) – while possibly culturally outdated and unrepresentative – is not an optional extra as far as the kit is concerned, whereas adding the logo of a politically-weighted charity/organisation would be.

    My point is that a blanket ban is much easier to enforce than a case-by-case scenario.

  8. JF96 says:

    100% should be allowed to wear the poppy on the national shirt. its a national tradition that we honour the fallen, england need to grow a back bone, political correctness has gone to far. an organisation as corrupt as FIFA shouldn’t be able to dictate to a country on what to wear and what not to wear on the shirts, they had nothing to say when Real wore the FORZA CASSANO shirt the other day, even if its for the warm up and the anthems. England need to stand up for what is right for once instead of being bullied into doing what somebody else says !

  9. Varun says:

    China is an another example in this they don’t like Poppy as well.

  10. Archbishop Betty Snagcock says:

    chris i’m absolutely with you on this one. I was arguing this point with a mate’s friend at a party at the weekend, ends out he had two weeks earlier come back from afghanistan…that didn’t end well.

  11. Chris says:

    Why cant the Stadium be ‘tarted up with some big Poppy motif around the hoardings or at each corner flag?

    Wear a poppy on your warm-up tracksuit top, then go and play football in the normal shirt. BIG DEAL.
    Football should be about escapism from all things bad.

    Remember – if England play in a modified shirt the FA will try to sell it to you as a limited Edition England shirt for 80 quid

  12. Anto says:

    Its a blanket ban that applies to all members of FIFA yet somehow many people in England expect special treatment.

  13. mtm says:

    what ajoke english are:D don’t you get it nobody likes you wankers hands off afganistan and falklands and all other occupied countries (nortjhern ireland)!! you bombed innocent people killed them en masse in dresden hamburg and other cities so just f*uck off b*astards and if not russia you’ll be lost the war. and beside your f*ucking poppy is propaganda tool its has nothing to do with yor fallen troops, besides tell about poppy something to people of afganistan.. FUCK OFF FROM AFGANISTAN!! DON’T YOU GET IT ITS JUST YOU WHO LIKES YOR F*UCKING POPIES

  14. Eddie says:

    I feel the onus should be on each player individually, whether or not they wish to wear the poppy and it should in no way be forced upon them. It is easy to easy to forget that some English players have Irish ancestry, e.g., Wayne Rooney, Gary Cahill and Rio Ferdinand. While it may not mean anything to them, it might be offensive to their Irish relatives. The bizare question is, why do players of all nationalities wear the poppy in the premier league? Would an English player, playing his football in Ireland wear something similar to commemerate the 1916 Rising or Bloody Sunday?

  15. murry1975 says:

    England midfielder Jack Wilshere tweeted: “My great-grandad fought for this country in WW2 and I’m sure a lot of people’s grandparents did.”
    Yes a lot of peoples grandparents faught ,(the Chinese lost more people in this war, than anyother nation – which they say started in 1933, a fact ignored by the western world).
    But to say the poppy isnt political is nonsense . Why are wars faught ? Politics of some kind . WWI and WWII deserve to be remembered and so do those injured and fallen and the brave service men and women who are doing their bit still(always support your nations troops even if you dont support the government).
    Does it need to be done in an international match ? I dont know , but if FIFA say so they must then use this rule across the board , Croatia and the USA have both used their international flag as a shirt design – surely that is a political symbol ?

  16. Frank says:

    Why can’t we get a Pudsey sewn on the kit too? It’s children in need soon. Geez. I like my international football shirts like I like my women – plain and deflowered.

  17. Scott says:

    lol, mtm do you even have any sense?

    It’s a contentious issue. I suppose we should be glad they’re allowing a two minute silence.

  18. Bobbie says:

    This is football. Wear a black arm band, leave the other insignia at the door. Yes Turkey and Pakistan have a crescent moon on their shirt, its because its part of their flag. Substitute the union jack for the poppy? by all means put it on your shirt.

    Football is supposed to transcend barriers, not create them.

  19. don petronie says:

    i think political correctness is in line with feminism and fanaticism when it comes to plaguing the modern day mankind.
    don’t you know that thumbs up in the west mean ‘go feed yo momma’ in the east? blatant example i know, but goddamnit, the world is full of symbolism that represents something in one culture and something opposite in another.
    bottom line is, everything is bound to offend at least somebody.

  20. Benji says:

    I think a lot of the people commenting do not understand the political issue in Northern Ireland. The poppy has been (wrongly) hijacked as a symbol of Unionism by some corners and is used as a Sectarian provoker. I live in Northern Ireland, I have had grandparents fighting in both World Wars for the British Army, but I could simply not wear a poppy as it represents something completely different than rememberence in my country. Can’t we all just enjoy the football and respect the fallen in our own way?

  21. Ubietz888 says:

    Great point Bobbie.

  22. Ubietz888 says:

    How about a Poppy armband? Or even a red armband? It’s not modifying the kit in anyway.

  23. Christian says:

    I think that even the black arm band loses it´s meaning due to its iterative use all over Europe. One can´t take this sort of condolence seriously anymore. There is nothing in doing some pre-match celebrations, but keep it off the pitch once the game has started. There is no remembrance during match. It´s all about two teams looking to score. In this case, nobody cares what happened back in Verdun in 1917, when Lampard is looking to score from the spot…

  24. pooky says:

    @mtm: The poppies are in honour of the hundreds of thousands of often-teenaged, conscripted soldiers who were FORCED to fight (and die) to protect their countries, not a bunch of John Rambo-wannabes with a lust for slaughter – blame the governments for that – and they should be remembered.

    But yes, not on the football field if it’s going to open a whole can of worms. Oh, and Afghanistan was in the midst of a decade-long civil war before the UK & US ever invaded – which came after the decade-long failed Russian invasion. Learn some history!

  25. gamblino says:

    Wow, my facebook is full of narrow-minded chest thumping faux-patriotic neanderthals blabbing about their Grandads but here you’re all having a very intelligent conversation. Bravo!

  26. Joe says:

    The press have certainly jumped on this issue. You can see where FIFA are coming from. They are right to be concerned about other countries having agendas to put forward with messages on shirts. The difference here is that the poppy is a symbol of remembrance, respect and mourning. It is not an approval or celebration of war.

    The idea of remembering war dead is not just a tradition in this country. Wales and Scotland also participate. Australia and New Zealand who have ANZAC Day, albeit on a different date, and the U.S who have Veterans Day.

    The FA are in danger of getting into an all out battle with FIFA. I’m not sure how much more animosity the relationship can handle. Now David Cameron has expressed his dismay at the decision. If his appeal to FIFA doesnt work, we must get on with the tributes we already have planned, perfectly carry out the minutes silence, and play our hearts out for the badge on our chest. That would be an appropriate tribute.

  27. Col says:

    Football and politics have been intertwined for a very long time, even at club level. Part of the historical rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona is related to the whole Catalan nationalism and conflicts that include, but are certainly not limited to, the Spanish Civil War.

    For many fans of european clubs outside of England, the political background of their club is a massive part of their support. Celtic and St Pauli are big examples of this.

    You can’t and arguably shouldn’t separate football and politics but surely at a time where we are finally trying to eradicate divisions of race, gender, class etc, we should sensibly find a way to be proud of our historical heritage whilst be mindful of other peoples own views and beliefs.

    A support of football should be a common interest, not a cause for conflict.

  28. fist says:

    Ok so FIFA says we can’t wear poppies, but what about black armbands? Is there a FIFA “law” prohibiting this?
    Also if i were the FA I would rub it into FIFA face every way i can. Issue the fans white red and black bags to hold up that make out a poppy. Put poppies on the armband, sweatband and gloves of every player. Advertising hording around the ground and pitch with just poppies on (make the advertisers donate to charity too).

    This is not political, religious or commercial. It’s about remembering and respecting the fallen.

  29. sloth says:

    Good article.
    Here’s an extreme analogy: In Hinduism and Buddhism, the swastika is a symbol of good luck. If the Indian national team were playing a friendly against big bad England or France or Germany (or not-so-big-or-bad Israel), and if they wanted to sew swastikas on their chests for good luck, would that be ok?

    Remember the fallen heroes, but leave the contentious and divisive political symbols off the football pitch.

  30. Mr. Sparkle says:

    A poppy isn’t a political symbol.

    Besides, India would make the mistake of putting a Swastika on their shirts. I think they’re too well aware of the connotations that the symbol has. Unless of course they wanted to create potential scandal.

    One way or another, I support any notion to stick it to FIFA. I think everyone in the stands and the stadium as a whole should be decorated with poppies, Union Jacks and whatever else they can think of. Wear armbands and do everything in your power to demonstrate this bureaucratic stupidity.

  31. Steve says:

    Completely agree with the article (although I have seen that FIFA is allowing the poppy on a black armband now). FIFA’s initial decision was not specifically about the poppy. It’s one rule and each country has to stick to it.

    I lost my grandfather in the war but there’s millions of people all around the world who have their own causes, celebrations, symbols, grievances. Some of them are more worthy than others. Should FIFA decide what is okay and what is not? I don’t think so.

    Next thing you know the Bosnians want some sort of charity symbol on their shirts, then the Serbs and then Iran. What about Japan – let’s remember the innocent who died in Hiroshima? Let’s leave anything to do with politics (and remembrance of war dead is, by its very definition, politicial) out of football.

    If the England players feel so strongly about wearing a poppy, how about they each spend half of a week’s wages to the British Legion?

  32. Rulas says:

    Football = Peace…

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