Why the FA should have more important things to worry about than Pep Guardiola's yellow ribbon

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Pep Guardiola wore a yellow ribbon for the Carabao Cup final despite being warned not to.
Pep Guardiola wore a yellow ribbon for the Carabao Cup final despite being warned not to.

Less than a week after four of West Bromwich Albion’s footballers allegedly started their own ‘nick-a-taxi’ self service department in Barcelona, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola found himself charged by the FA for wearing a yellow ribbon.

The irony of the situation will not be lost on Pep, born and bred in Catalonia and a passionate supporter for the region’s independence. He has spoken about it on a number of occasions but only away from his footballing duties.

The ribbon is indeed a protest against the detention of Catalan independence activists Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart on sedition charges, and other Catalanists that defended or organised a referendum. The protest is not that they have been charged – although any charges will be roundly defended – but rather the fact that the two accused have been remanded in custody despite the fact they present no threat and while many others who are accused of far worse (corruption for instance) are on bail and walking the streets.

The FA, who when confronted with any potentially embarrassing situation normally react with a speed of action that would give narcolepsy the look of hyper-activity, have come charging in by stating that political symbols cannot be worn during games and that he has breached that regulation… months after Pep started using it as a means of protest.

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Whether or not they would ever have known what the ribbon stood for is a matter of conjecture, but thankfully in this case they were aided by Jose Mourinho who was keen to explain to them what it was all about before adding, that had it been him wearing it he would have been in real trouble.

Was Mourinho thinking that by pointing out at supposed double standards he would manage to put more pressure to officials and authorities? Did he mind what the yellow ribbon stands for or is it win at all costs?

Jose Mourinho – helping the FA?
Jose Mourinho – helping the FA?

But aided or not by Mourinho’s information which always had the feel of the school playground tell-tale, “look what he did” about it, on this occasion they were onto it quicker than a family of blow flies onto a fresh cow pat.

The argument that the wearing of the ribbon was no more political than, say than the ban on the wearing of poppies on the England shirt, later relaxed by FIFA, cut no ice with the FA who argued that the poppy was not a political symbol. They may or may not have a point but, incidentally, if you’re thinking about arguing that point against a set of sharp lawyers – good luck!!

Meanwhile Jonny Evans, Jake Livermore, Boaz Myhill and Gareth Barry having stolen the taxi were contrite. They apologised for “breaking the curfew” and for “the events which have been the subject of widespread and negative publicity”.

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At no point you notice is there any mention about apologising to the poor immigrant taxi driver trying to eke out a living at 5.30 in the morning only to have his taxi pinched by four millionaires.

Now the club has done what was expected and fined them huge amounts of money – well at least by the standards of most people although probably not exceedingly rich, footballers who will perceive the type of loss that many would find life threatening, as a mere irritation.

And what did the FA do? Nothing, zilch, nada, niente!!

Alan Pardew has big Problems at West Brom
Alan Pardew has big Problems at West Brom

I’m wondering at what point in the thought processes of those in command, the scenario of four footballers that are representatives of their club, their country, THEIR FA, going out at 5.30 in the morning in a foreign country and supposedly stealing a taxi from one of the locals does not come under the heading of “bringing the game into disrepute”.

But not at all. But we shouldn’t be surprised.

This is an organisation that when accused of institutional racism and bullying and made to answer charges in front of a Common Select Committee wheeled out their chairman, Greg Clarke, who proceeded to dismiss such allegations as ‘fluff’, before backtracking at an embarrassing rate of knots when he realised that maybe it hadn’t been the best choice of word.

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This is an organisation that, according to British media, in 2001 sent a terse almost indignant letter to a former Crewe Alexandra director who was trying to blow the whistle in 2001, telling him there was “no case to answer” on Barry Bennell – jailed last week for 31 years – and others.

I am convinced stopping an individual defending his political views, not on behalf of the institution he represents, but on his own, is censorship, no matter what rule you bring to defend a punishment. We are all political animals and everything around us is politics – from our choice of words when we speak to our decisions on where to travel or who to make friends with. To suggest sportsmen should hide their political stand is do defend a neutrality that hurts more than yielding an opinion. What is happening in Catalonia is unfair. And bravo Pep for pointing it out.


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