Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has been charged by the English FA for ‘wearing a political message, specifically a yellow ribbon’ in breach of their kit and advertising regulations.
The ribbon, which Guardiola wears, is a symbol of support for the imprisoned politicians in Catalonia after the Spanish government took action after the province’s independence referendum.
The former Barcelona manager, a proud Catalonian, was spoken to by the FA in December and was hit with several formal warnings which were ignored but he was charged with breaching FA regulations after wearing it pitch side during City’s FA Cup defeat to Wigan on Monday.
Hypocrisy of the FA
However, the FA’s stance is a clear sign of hypocrisy in the wake of their own history of ‘political messages’ and being charged by FIFA.
In December 2016, the English FA [along with their Scottish counterparts] were charged and fined by FIFA after players wore poppies in the World Cup qualifier against Scotland in November of the same year.
England were hit with a £35,000 fine for breaching FIFA’s rule 57.1 which prohibits teams from displaying political symbols on kit. Yet, at the time, the English FA claimed they had a strong legal and moral case to contest the fine.
How is this any different to Guardiola’s wearing of the yellow ribbon?
He strong believes in supporting the imprisoned politicians and many can clearly see the moral case behind it also.
The FA were clearly warned in the run up to the qualifier that FIFA deemed the poppy a ‘political symbol’ and yet ignored this and went ahead with it anyway despite clearly knowing the regulations.
Is it a case of do as we say not as we do with the English FA?
FIFA’s statement on their ruling, read: “‘England has been fined for several incidents in the framework of the England v Scotland match, including the display by the host association, the English team and spectators of a political symbol and several cases of spectator misconduct.
“Scotland has been fined for the display of the same political symbol and cases of misconduct committed by its own group of spectators.”
Poppy Fascism & Political Hijacking
In recent years, the poppy has been hijacked by the Westminster government, right wing fundamentalists and poppy fascists who vilify those in the public eye who do not wear the red symbol.
Outspoken veteran Harry Leslie Smith, a former RAF serviceman, is of the belief that the poppy has been both ‘politicised and commercialised’ and that it has now become a ‘month-long dirge of patriotism’.
In an interview to the Huffington Post in 2015, Smith said: “Unfortunately, since we fell into the quagmire of the Iraq war and the ubiquitous war on terror, Armistice Day and the wearing of the poppy have been not only politicised but also commercialised.
“It is now almost a month long dirge of patriotism without context and without understanding the true cost of war.”
Smith added: “My generation gave our blood sweat and tears to be victorious against a tyrant who wanted to enslave us to a totalitarian state, whereas today we are more than willing to surrender our personal liberties to governments and corporations hoping that if we live in a state under constant surveillance we will not suffer physical harm.
“To me that type of trade off is just another form of terror and maybe the most dangerous kind.”
West Brom midfielder James McClean refuses to wear the poppy as he believes the symbol commemorates military personnel who have died in war — not just those who died in the First and Second World Wars.
McClean, who has faced numerous death threats over his stance, grew up on the Creggan estate in Derry where 14 people were killed on Bloody Sunday in 1972. Bloody Sunday as one of the most heinous and murderous acts committed by the British military in Northern Ireland, when soldiers of the Parachute Regiment shot 28 unarmed civilians during a peaceful protest march.
McClean commented: “People say I am being disrespectful but don’t ask why I choose not to wear it.
“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.”
Of course the likes of the Royal British Legion are still of the opinion that it is a symbol of commemoration and remembrance.
While a spokesperson for Prime Minister Theresa May added: “FIFA don’t seem to have recognised the sentiment behind poppies — that they are not a political symbol, but are about recognising with pride the role that our brave servicemen and women play.
“We believe that footballers and fans should be able very clearly to show their support for all that our armed forces do.”
What now for Guardiola?
Given the 47-year-old’s strong feelings over the jailed Catalan politicians, Guardiola will in all likelihood challenge the FA over their charge and continue to wear the yellow ribbon no matter the ruling — which could see him follow in the footsteps of Sir Alex Ferguson who was regularly fined for refusing to talk to the BBC post-match after a documentary programme targeted one of his sons.
In a twist, Guardiola can freely wear the yellow ribbon during the Manchester club’s UEFA Champions League games, as European football’s governing body only ban political symbols that are deemed offensive.
He has until Monday 5th March to respond to the charge.