In Flanders Field

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row”

These lines inspired the small, red, plastic poppies which are symbols for the remembrance of those have given their lives in wars around the world. That red poppy should be a symbol of peace amidst today’s conflicted world but for some, hidden away behind their ivory towers in Zurich, it seems it is rapidly becoming the basis for a war.

Admittedly only a war that will be played out in the courts of Europe but no matter where the battlefield it is a war which in itself is an insult to all those for who that poppy represents. You may think this is a little too political topic for what is essentially a sports blog but this conflict is all about football’s governing body suddenly deciding, nearly a century after they were first worn, that it is against their rules to display poppies at one of their international matches.

I have blogged previously about the stand-off between FIFA and the English and Scottish FAs but today the Welsh and Northern Irish FAs have been told they are also being investigated. Both of these FAs decided they wouldn’t challenge FIFA’s edict and their players went onto the field with only black armbands so what was their crime? Several incidents of the display of poppy symbols and in the case of the Welsh FA the crime of fans wearing poppies during the match.

The fans wearing poppies during the match!

Now I am no political firebrand but the fact a sport’s governing body has the temerity to tell me what I can and cannot wear when I go to see my national team does make my blood boil. In the recent USA versus Mexico match no doubt there would have been more than a few pro and anti Trump messages daubed on the t-shirts and caps of the fans, and if there were surely these would fall foul of the FIFA ground safety regulations which state “the promotion or announcement of political or religious messages in stadiums is strictly prohibited”. Or does a “Make America Great” hat translate as “FIFA wouldn’t dare to mess with us?” Remember the investigations over FIFA corruption emanated from America’s shores.

Most of the world would agree there are symbols which should not be displayed anywhere, symbols which dredge up memories of hate and intolerance and surely these are the symbols which FIFA should use these regulations to enforce? Or do the powers that be in Zurich really believe a red plastic poppy should be bracketed with the swastika or a pointy white hood?

When I first read this news story I hoped it was the latest example of a fake news story making its way into the mainstream but then I remembered we are talking about FIFA and I actually laughed as I thought to myself, maybe it would be better if we brought back Sepp!

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