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A few thoughts on the poppy fuss

A lot of you might have noticed the poppy flower adorning attire of managers, broadcasters, players’ shirts etc. to mark Remembrance week. Sportsmail (or, indeed, the Daily Mail) have led this campaign to get all Premier League clubs to have an embroidered poppy on club kits. Personally, I didn’t have much of a problem with a campaign of this sort. But somewhere, this thing went wrong.

Initially Stoke and Blackburn weren’t part of this, but apparently when the Mail published names of the clubs that had signed in — casting those that hadn’t in inferior light — they joined this campaign. Three clubs — Bolton, Liverpool and Manchester United — continued to stay off this. And they may have their own reasons; United and Liverpool have spoken out about how much they have already done in their charity work etc, for the soldiers in war, and they don’t intend to be part of this. And that’s fair — it’s their own prerogative to choose to be part of an awareness drive or stay away from it.

The Manchester United spokesman said, “We are very proud of the work we do with the armed forces and we do not feel a poppy on the shirt would add to our contribution. Our staff and officials will be wearing them as usual and we are confident we are doing the right thing.”

The problem comes when the Mail article tries by way of some sort of passive-aggressive methods to prove that our clubs are disrespecting the armed forces.

In fact, Charles Sale of the Mail in his piece article openly rebuked the three clubs that didn’t choose to be a part of this campaign.

United’s intransigent and will be all the more exposed by Chelsea, their live TV match opponents on Sunday at Stamford Bridge, always making a great play of their connection with the Chelsea Pensioners on the Remembrance Sunday weekend.

Now I personally wished our clubs did wear a poppy; after all it isn’t too much to ask. But I also think acts of selflessness/charity/benevolence is a personal thing that one is entitled to opt in our out of without having to listen to self-righteous voices from outside forcing someone into doing something. So one can choose to do good in one’s own way. United and Liverpool (and of course, Bolton) have had their managers and staff wear the poppy flower and not the players. Pray, in what way are the clubs doing harm or showing disrespect to the armed forces, by not embroidering the flower on kits?

There is a difference between asking someone to be a part of a cause once, and bullying them into being a part of it if they politely refuse. The Guardian’s Marina Hyde said this best here:

After all, isn’t frothing yourself into demented indignation at the Blackburn squad’s lack of a poppy the very definition of having way too much time to indulge in fatuous rows? It’s redolent of that long-running, now mercifully expired argument about footballers not singing the national anthem in a manner acceptable to whichever Middle Englander wasn’t really watching the game anyway.

The point so often ignored is that the second world war, in particular, was fought to allow people the choice in this and many other matters. Victory meant freedom from fascism, which makes Jon Snow’s choice of words for this annual hounding of any public figure pictured without one – “poppy fascism” – particularly significant.

Indeed. To add to this nonsense we have some guff rolling out of John Terry’s lips:

“They love their football, they like to look up to us but I would like to be in their shoes and do what they do,” Terry said. “It’s great they want to do that and they are brilliant at their job. I would love to [serve], of course. Put your life on the line for the country – I would love to, but I don’t think many of us could.”

I am not one to be judging people, but this one strikes me as a little insincere. Oh I’d love to serve my country. I certainly do! Oh, then John, go on — where were you when they were drafting people for the war? I find it offensive that someone would say such a thing. Why can’t they just say stuff to the effect of I don’t think I have the courage to do what the great men and women laying their lives down for the country are doing?

A little honesty please, John.

I had to get this off my chest. Match preview will be up later.

Further reading on this subject:

The Republik of Mancunia
The Guardian

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