Apparently FIFA is telling the English and Scottish FAs that the two sides cannot wear poppies when they play each other on 11th November. Both FAs intend to defy the ban and FIFA is warning sanctions will follow. For me it is a mystery as to why anybody thought to consult with FIFA in the first place: it is usually better to ask for forgiveness than permission or, even better, not even bother doing that.
Personally, I’d rather football and other sports teams didn’t wear the poppy. I have nothing against people buying and wearing poppies, nor contributing to the Royal British Legion, nor do I think members of the public who wear one are making political statements. But what I do find a bit annoying is its creeping ubiquity: every newsreader on British television starts wearing one from around 1st November, which is almost certainly something they are told to do. In fact, pretty much everyone who appears on TV from celebrity chefs to football managers in that period is expected to wear a poppy, and it has got to the point they probably fear they’d be criticised if they don’t. I’d prefer to see fewer poppies on television and be comforted by the fact that wearing one hasn’t become de facto compulsory, for if that is the case then it will have lost most of its meaning. Do the English footballers even get a choice?
For example, when you look through the House of Commons you see almost every MP wearing one, even the backbenchers. Do I believe these self-serving parasites give a stuff about war veterans? No, I don’t. For a lot of them wearing a poppy is about virtue-signalling and trying to fit in.
Take a look at what ANZAC day in Australia has become. The New Australian (now retired) used to write about this, and somebody popped up in the comments to explain that it was slowly losing its significance as the original veterans died off, but then a politician sometime in the 1990s saw an opportunity to bash the patriotic drum by reviving it. TNA’s personal take on it, and mine is the same, is that as non-Australians it is not really our place to disparage something that obviously means a lot to Aussies and Kiwis…but is turning up to a cenotaph at 7am in rugby kit and getting absolutely shitfaced really the best way to remember the dead? Woe betide anyone in Australia who asks this question out loud, or frowns upon the crass commercialisation of the whole thing.
In short, I’d rather see the wearing of poppies remain the private decision of individuals rather than be co-opted by politicians, the media, and organisations such as the FA. Wearing black armbands and the minute’s silence have lost all their former meaning now they have become official policy and barely a weekend goes by without a team mourning the loss of somebody or other. I hope the poppy doesn’t go the same way.