War, ter­ror put World Cup into proper fo­cus

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

PARIS: From pop­pies and black arm­bands in a mov­ing re­mem­brance of mil­lions of war dead to bru­tally graphic night­mares caused by ter­ror­ist car­nage, World Cup qual­i­fiers will be sober­ing as well as rau­cous. At Wem­b­ley in Lon­don, foot­ball’s old­est ri­valry will be re­newed when Eng­land and Scot­land face off in the lat­est stag­ing point on the road to the 2018 fi­nals in Rus­sia. They are also on col­li­sion course with the game’s rulers. Both coun­tries’ foot­ball as­so­ci­a­tions will defy a FIFA ban by wear­ing black arm­bands with red poppy em­blems.

It leaves both teams at risk of sanc­tions, but Eng­land and Scot­land are de­ter­mined to ob­serve the cus­tom, by which peo­ple in Bri­tain pay re­spect to the coun­try’s war dead on Novem­ber 11. “As head coach, I was keen for us to wear pop­pies,” said in­terim Eng­land man­ager Gareth South­gate. “It’s im­por­tant we rep­re­sent the na­tion and wear­ing the poppy is the right thing to do.” Play­ers on both sides have also backed the stance while Martin Glenn, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the English FA, in­sisted “our le­gal po­si­tion is right... our moral po­si­tion is right”.

How­ever, the risk of pun­ish­ment by FIFA has led North­ern Ire­land to de­cide to wear plain black arm­bands with­out pop­pies for their home game with Azer­bai­jan. Wales, too, have opted only for arm­bands when they host Ser­bia in Cardiff to­day. Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion of Wales (FAW) chief ex­ec­u­tive Jonathan Ford told the BBC: “The FAW nat­u­rally wishes to re­spect and hon­our those who fought and lost their lives fight­ing for their coun­try. “We felt un­able to take the risk of a fi­nan­cial penalty or point de­duc­tion. How­ever, as we al­ways have done at this time of year, we will be pay­ing our re­spects in other ways.” Rugby world cham­pi­ons New Zealand have no such reser­va­tions.

‘Sac­ri­fice and courage’

The feared All Blacks will run out against Italy in Rome to­day in spe­cial ver­sions of their fa­mous jersey, fea­tur­ing pop­pies em­broi­dered into the sleeves. Flanker Matt Todd said wear­ing the spe­cial shirts for Tests around the Novem­ber 11 an­niver­sary of the World War I armistice was “a great honor that means a hell of a lot to the team”. “It is for the vet­er­ans and for those ser­vice­men still serv­ing,” he said. “With­out what they sac­ri­ficed and the courage they showed, we might not be in the sit­u­a­tion that we are to play.”

In Paris yes­ter­day, a minute’s si­lence was held be­fore the World Cup qual­i­fier be­tween France and Swe­den, 12 months af­ter 130 peo­ple were killed and hun­dreds in­jured in a series of ji­hadist at­tacks in the French cap­i­tal. The blood­shed of Novem­ber 13, 2015, started out­side the Stade de France where France were play­ing a friendly against world cham­pi­ons Ger­many. Three sui­cide bombers blew them­selves up out­side the ground in the north of the city. A 63-year-old man, Manuel Dias, was killed by one of the ex­plo­sions.

LON­DON: Pupils from Eden Girls’ School hold pop­pies as they wait to ob­serve a two minute si­lence in honor of Armistice Day in cen­tral Lon­don yes­ter­day. In the run-up to Armistice Day, many Bri­tons wear a pa­per red poppy-sym­bol­iz­ing the pop­pies which grew on French and Bel­gian bat­tle­fields dur­ing World War I-in their lapels. — AFP

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