Thursday, 3 November 2016

Leave the humble poppy alone

NEVER has a small paper and plastic flower worn once a year caused so much 'offence' and debate, turned sensible people silly and handed power to those who really don't deserve it.

Yet the poppy is at the centre of so many issues today, from its adoption by far right groups, it being banned from the shirts of England and Scotland footballers who will meet on Armistice Day itself to the ludicrous debate on when is the 'right time' to start wearing it.

On the last point, does it really matter when someone chooses to first wear it? Does it make them a bad person if they only wear it in Remembrance week? No of course it bloomin doesn't!

Let's face it, most of us lose at least one but happily dig deep to replace it out of embarrassment and admiration for the fallen!

James McClean has been attacked for not wearing one on his West Bromwich Albion shirt for their last home game before Remembrance Sunday. He has spoken of the reasons why and said: “If the poppy was simply about World War One and Two victims alone, I’d wear it without a problem.

“I would wear it every day of the year if that was the thing but it doesn’t, it stands for all the conflicts that Britain has been involved in. Because of the history where I come from in Derry, I cannot wear something that represents that.”

Is he a bad person for his refusal? No of course not, he's expressing the very freedom of speech people fought and died for. The freedom not to have something imposed on you by the 'those in charge'.

As for FIFA banning England and Scotland's footbalers wearing them well it's just a case of a governing body, and a troubled one at that, having way too much power.

FIFA regulations outlaw nations wearing anything that can be construed as commercial or a political or religious statement. The poppy is neither, it's an act of Remembrance – why we wear it on Remembrance occasions and not on Easter Sunday for example!

The silly mandarins at FIFA should remember that on Christmas Day 1914, British and German troops laid down their arms, wished each other Merry Christmas and played football.

102 years later, two other great rivals will meet on the football field at a time of great unease around the world. How wonderful would it be to see those players who want to take to the field with a poppy on their shirts?

Sometimes I wonder if veterans look at the debate around the poppy and wonder whether their sacrifices, what they saw and heard was worth it?

This weekend, buy a poppy if you want to, wear it with pride and remember those brave souls who never came home.

And please, after the commemorations, can we just all agree that the poppy is just a poppy and not a stick to beat people or nations with?

Now where's the pin for mine.....oh dear!