Early Doors

FA shamefully exploiting Poppy Appeal

Early Doors

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It threatened to be a bad week for the FA, didn't it?

There they were, with their captain withdrawn from action against Spain, and their best player left out, when FIFA stepped in with their refusal to let England wear poppies on their shirts.

In PR terms, it is the ultimate gift for the FA.

The poppy is overwhelmingly popular (and rightly so), while FIFA is overwhelmingly unpopular - and the tabloids are going mad.

The FA wasted no time cynically milking all the publicity they could out of the situation.

Their second request for special dispensation was always going to fail. The FA knew that, but they made it anyway because headlines about nasty, 'anti-English' FIFA are better than headlines about John Terry.

While ED absolutely supports the Poppy Appeal, it actually thinks FIFA might have got this one right.

Poppies on football shirts are a relatively new phenomenon - last season was the first time every Premier League club wore one.

For decades previously, it was perfectly possible for football to honour the country's war dead by other means, such as the laying of wreaths and a minute's silence. Both of these are approved by FIFA and seem like perfectly apt tributes.

In any case, it's not about FIFA passing judgement on Remembrance Day, but whether it should set a precedent allowing subsequent, more controversial, emblems to appear.

At the moment, FIFA allows nothing, and that seems like a pretty good rule of thumb. Key to the FA's case is the argument that the poppy is not political. You're not endorsing the conflicts themselves, rather the people who died in them.

Quite right too - the magnitude of a soldier's sacrifice does not change based on whether he dies on the Normandy beaches, in Belfast or Basra.

You honour the war dead, not the wars.

Of course, in the real world it is not so easy to divorce political sentiment from the debate.

Hence the Daily Mail's typically snide headline: "Poppy ban 'in case we upset Germans'" (and today's "Now the Germans back us to wear poppies!" - ah, so they're not so evil after all!).

ED does not know any German who would be offended by a poppy, but it does know a mid-market tabloid whose nose might be put out of joint if Germany wore a similar symbol to honour its war dead, including those who fought and died under the Nazi flag in the Second World War.

Those men and women made the same sacrifice, even for a manifestly unjust cause, and their descendants - members of an open and tolerant society - should be able to honour their fallen relatives without shame.

ED has no idea what consideration the Daily Mail would give to this argument while shoehorning the words 'Nazi' and 'FIFA' into the same headline.

And when the sports minister Hugh Robertson and PM David Cameron wade in to tell you the poppy "is not political in any way", you know it probably is.

That's not because of the poppy itself, but the people who have shamelessly chosen to twist this controversy for their own ends.

If the poppy is non-political, why have the FA, the Government and the press exploited it to bury bad news, score points against FIFA and sell newspapers?

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Hugh Robertson's lamentable letter to FIFA: "We fully understand, and respect, FIFA's rules on its member nations not adorning their shirts with 'commercial', 'political', or 'religious' symbols or messages. The FA and FAW do not intend to contravene these rules.

"However, the public feel very strongly about this issue, which is seen as an act of national remembrance to commemorate those who gave their lives in the service of their country.

"It is not religious or political in any way. Wearing a poppy is a display of national pride, just like wearing your country's football shirt. I hope very much that you will approve this request."

Or in other words: "Dear FIFA, please let Our Boys wear poppies. When you said 'no' the first time maybe you didn't realise we really, really, really want to wear them. This is not political. Yours, a politician."

FOREIGN VIEW: Jose Bosingwa will not play for Portugal while Paulo Bento is in charge.

"It pains me to say but while Paulo Bento remains as Portugal coach I won't put on the national shirt again," the Chelsea defender told A Bola.

Last week Bento explained that Bosingwa had not been called up for this month's Euro 2012 play-off against Bosnia because the full-back did not meet the necessary requirements, including "emotional and mental ones".

Bosingwa said he was bewildered by the coach's remarks.

"I feel offended and disrespected with these declarations about me... I don't understand what the coach meant by emotional and mental matters because I find it hard for a player to reach the level I've achieved by being weak in the points he mentioned," Bosingwa said.

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