Footballers have a right to dissent from the poppy narrative

Footballer holds a wreath

Nemanja Matic and James McClean have received different treatment at the hands of fans.

Spare a thought for football fans. We’ve just emerged relatively unscathed from Halloween – a bonus in a sport never more than 30 seconds away from a cultural “misunderstanding” – only to be plunged face first into the annual poppy debate.

And the players reckon they need a winter break.

While not an issue confined to football, the poppy debate has been honed to a sharp point in a game defined by division, and nationalistic by default. The bickering began in 2011, when the FA’s request for England players to be allowed to wear embroidered poppies on their shirts during a fixture vs. Spain was turned down by Fifa. The laws at the time stated that shirts should not carry political, religious or commercial messages. The law was eventually overturned by Fifa in 2017, but not before England had been fined for defying it.

In November 2012, Derry-born, Republic of Ireland and Sunderland player James McClean, made headlines after playing for his club without the embroidered poppy on his shirt. It was reported that McClean wasn’t allowed to make statement about his decision by Sunderland. Speculation as to his reasoning ensued and he became the unwilling poster boy for political dissent in football. Every year, around this time, football commentators, writers and fans roll their eyes and the James McClean-kicking festival opens. This week, we received news that McClean’s wife has received death threats and “abusive packages” have been sent to him at Stoke City’s (his current club) training ground.

Over the last six years, it feels like this issue has become less about Remembrance and respecting those who served and more about abusing people who choose to dissent from The Narrative.

And while this isn’t …read more

Source:: New Statesman


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