FIFA’s poppy ban is petty and fool­ish

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO - An­drew Moody

It seems FIFA, the body we some­how still en­trust to run the beau­ti­ful game, will now go to al­most any lengths to court con­tro­versy.

It has now opened dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ing against Wales be­cause some of its sup­port­ers in the stands wore pop­pies in the World Cup qual­i­fy­ing game against Ser­bia.

This was af­ter its on­go­ing ac­tion against Eng­land and Scot­land for wear­ing pop­pies on their arm­bands dur­ing their fix­ture at Wem­b­ley in Oc­to­ber.

FIFA claims it is a po­lit­i­cal sym­bol and as such — along with re­li­gious ones — it needs to be banned at soc­cer games.

Viewed from only a United King­dom per­spec­tive, FIFA’s ac­tion ap­pears al­most blun­der­ingly comic rather than of­fen­sive. How could any

This Day, That Year

se­ri­ous or­ga­ni­za­tion em­bark on such a pub­lic re­la­tions dis­as­ter?

It is, af­ter all, just some­thing peo­ple wear to com­mem­o­rate the Bri­tish and Com­mon­wealth war dead in the two weeks or so be­fore Nov 11, the an­niver­sary of when the World War I ar­mistice was signed.

The price of wear­ing one is a small do­na­tion to The Royal Bri­tish Le­gion, a char­ity which pro­vides sup­port for vet­er­ans and their fam­i­lies.

They are now al­most com­pul­sory to wear in Bri­tain, some­thing that has given birth to the term “poppy fas­cism.” No one would dare ap­pear on the tele­vi­sion with­out one.

It is cer­tainly some­thing that has be­come much big­ger over the past two decades. When there were many World War I and II vet­er­ans still alive, it was much more low key. Be­ing in the wars was just a com­mon ex­pe­ri­ence ev­ery­one had.

How­ever, the poppy is far from uni­ver­sal sym­bol. It is cer­tainly not one that is rec­og­nized at all in China.

I was asked time and time again by col­leagues and friends here why I had sud­denly taken to wear­ing a “flower” (al­beit one made of cheap pa­per and plas­tic) in my lapel as though I was mak­ing some idio­syn­cratic fash­ion state­ment.

This year my ayi, to my con­ster­na­tion, even threw out my spare one that I had left on my din­ing room ta­ble.

When for­mer prime min­is­ter David Cameron wore one in Bei­jing in 2010 there was also some sug­ges­tion he was mak­ing an oblique ref­er­ence to the Opium Wars.

I am re­li­ably in­formed by the au­thor Paul French that the UK poppy which sym­bol­izes the red pa­paver rhoeas va­ri­ety that grew on the bat­tle­fields of Flan­ders dur­ing the war is not of the opi­ate va­ri­ety.

The China one, ap­par­ently, is pa­paver som­niferum and is now grown also for medic­i­nal pur­poses in Hamp­shire and other ar­eas of south­ern Eng­land.

A Chi­nese friend of mine who is cur­rently do­ing a PhD in Not­ting­ham in Eng­land told me she felt slightly ex­cluded by it all this year.

She wasn’t sure whether she was ex­pected to join in. She also won­dered whether Bri­tain shouldn’t in­stead com­mem­o­rate all the peo­ple it killed in its colo­nial wars.

I tried to tell her that would be quite a tough sell to the Bri­tish pub­lic, par­tic­u­larly in de­fi­ant Brexit mode.

So do FIFA of­fi­cials have a point?

They prob­a­bly do have a very small be­cause of the am­bi­gu­ity of the poppy as a sym­bol but in rais­ing it so pub­licly they only serve to make spec­tac­u­lar asses of them­selves yet again.

19, col­lege stu­dent in Hei­longjiang prov­ince

Con­tact the writer at an­drew­moody @chi­nadaily.com.cn

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