Many would agree that, for centuries, patriotism has permeated traditional British values. Whether you’re joining your fellow citizens in taking a moment of silence to remember lost war heroes or belting out the national anthem at a footie match with your old man, patriotism, for many of us, has long defined what it means to be ‘typically British’. However, in 2016, it seems that British patriotism is no longer appropriate, especially, on the pitch.
Last week, FIFA (the Fédération Internationale de Football Association) rejected a request from both the English and Scottish football teams to wear the poppy emblem on their shirts whilst playing each other at a World Cup qualifying game set to take place on Armistice Day (11th November). As reported by BBC sport, FIFA have classed the poppy as a ‘political message’, which along with religious and commercial messages, are strictly banned on players’ shirts during games. Although FIFA have stated they will be “sticking to the letter of the law” in regards to this issue, both the English and Scottish Football Associations are unhappy with their decision and are said to be meeting with FIFA officials this week in an attempt to renegotiate terms. Along with infuriating many British fans, the FIFA ruling has also enraged several public figures including the Prime Minister, who is quoted in The Guardian describing the decision as “utterly outrageous”.
It’s not too often that I find myself in agreement with a Tory politician, but on this occasion she’s totally correct. The decision made by FIFA is, in my view, completely unwarranted and to deny a nation the right to commemorate their dead soldiers in a peaceful and respectful way is quite frankly disgusting. By rejecting the humble requests of these teams, not only have FIFA shown their total ignorance as an international association by not respecting the national traditions of various countries, but they have also shot themselves in the foot by underestimating the importance of patriotism to football fans. As described by SFA (Scottish Football Association) chief, Stewart Regan, in an interview with BBC Sport, fans want “to use this match [as] a way of remembering people who lost their lives in the war”, highlighting that it is the fans themselves who are pushing for this tribute. Furthermore, if British team members choose to wear the poppy as a mark of respect, who are FIFA to dictate the personal preferences of these players?
Harmful political messages such as branding the swastika or glorifying ISIS undoubtedly warrant censorship. But bearing a small red flower to remember those who bravely gave their lives? In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think so.
(Image courtesy of the Evening Standard)