I don’t know much, if anything, about football. I’m the first to admit it. But I do know just a little about poppies and Remembrance Day because I’ve always worn one at this time of year. Which is more than footballers have.
Football’s governing body FIFA has decided that in the upcoming England v Scotland match the players shouldn’t wear poppies.
I don’t know whether they asked to, but FIFA has decided they shouldn’t as they class them as political symbols. Footballers, or more accurately, the tabloid press, which decides it’s “the voice of the people” that poppies aren’t a political symbol and our brave, hard-working footballers are being prevented from mourning Our Glorious Dead. Presumably by the tabloids’ worst thing of all, un-elected bureaucrats.
The funny thing is that this is new. Footballers didn’t wear poppies in 1945, when anyone on the England squad would have either known first hand what dead people looked like or would certainly have known someone who did. They didn’t in 1955 after Malaya, or 1966, the last time the highest-paid footballers in the world won the World Cup (just to remind everyone, 50 years ago, which doesn’t seem to make them very good at international football, to me) or at any time at all until the last ten years when a new kind of fake patriotism has made them popular along with Help For Heroes, a charity that manages to collect money but doesn’t seem to do quite so well giving it to people. Ex-Army people I know personally wouldn’t spit on it, let alone give to it, for exactly that reason.
More to the point, poppy wearing isn’t about patriotism. Or it was never supposed to be. It was about remembering the dead.
So I’m with FIFA. I would be hugely surprised if the new poppy herd can name two battles of either war, count how many people died, name a single general who got thousands of people killed or has any experience whatsoever of either World War for the obvious reason that anyone on the England squad now was only born a fraction of the 71 years ago that WWII ended. Wearing a poppy at a football match isn’t about caring. It’s about being seen to noticed as ‘caring.’
I’m deeply suspicious of a patriotism or anything else that needs to be seen to be genuine, literally. You mourn, or remember, or observe, in your heart. It’s nothing to do with wearing a badge to say how much you’re doing it.