sport news MARTIN SAMUEL: Pep won't just give up cultural identity

While I accept that you are a Remainer and that you think you are always right, you are wrong about the 48 per cent needing to have their views listened to when, if the result had been reversed, do you think the views of Brexit supporters would have been taken into consideration? European Union rules would not have permitted it. And there is the real problem. Keep politics off your sports column. Mktandhs, Sheerness.

Just because they lost the vote doesn’t make them any less real. That was the point I think. KJM, Geneva.

In a nutshell, KJM. We’ll get onto the tyranny of real later in the column, but I would first like to pick our poster from Sheerness up about one point. The reason I mentioned the 48 per cent, is because we are being told that 52 per cent is the voice of Britain when, as anyone can see, it is rather a small majority and the country is significantly divided. Indeed, it is such a small majority, that those were precisely the numbers – a 52/48 split – that a certain politician used to illustrate the type of defeat that would necessitate a second vote or at least a continuation of the debate. He imagined his side losing, closely, and told the Daily Mirror: “In a 52-48 referendum this would be unfinished business by a long way.” That politician’s name? Nigel Farage. So let’s not pretend that the Leave campaign would not be agitating exactly the same way as Remain is now, in similar circumstances, or that they would not deserve a voice, or that I should keep politics out of this, or any, column. Because, Mktandhs, I actually read up on it. And if you wish to pronounce on it in such a condescending way, you should do the same. Five points up next, when we will be turning the clock back to 2011. As does this.

Point one: some old views, revisited, reconsidered, reappraised.

Totally agree with the criticism of the Football Association – it was stupid to allow the poppies on the pitch. They have certainly become a political symbol, but didn't the Daily Mail pressurise the FA to allow them in the first place? Courlis, Manchester.

Yes, Martin Samuel himself, in a 2011 article, implored the FA to defy FIFA's ban. Ian, Swansea.

I just read the article from 2011. It’s actually good. Would be interesting to see if Martin responds to your comment in the debate because you can not only see a changing of opinion but also a difference in writing styles. Richard, Northamptonshire.

Well, if we would all like to get on the same page, you can read that column, from November 9, 2011, here. The style hasn’t changed, Richard, but it was probably the last time I wrote from this standpoint. I have increasingly come to believe that club crests and commercial logos are all that should be worn on football shirts. I’m not losing sleep over it, but I have changed my mind. 

I didn’t see the problem with poppies in 2011, while the argument remained nuanced and concerned personal freedom. Once it moved to the dogmatic, with alternative views silenced, once it became something that had to be done, rather than something we had a choice to do – that was when I began to see problems, and deserted this argument. 

Premier League football teams have worn poppies emblazoned on their shirts before 

Premier League football teams have worn poppies emblazoned on their shirts before 

Re-reading the column I can see a number of other things, too: I see a writer who does not support the stance of his newspaper in demanding football teams wear the poppy, but does not wish to cause embarrassment by stridently opposing the campaign, so is a little on the fence; I see me edging, gently, towards my present stance, beginning to see the poppy as another symbol in our modern desire for demonstrative mourning; I see someone who has only contempt for FIFA, which endures; and I see someone who feels strongly about national sport, that it should remain distinct and different, and be embraced for that. And that view hasn’t changed either. 

I also dug out columns I wrote about poppies and remembrance for this newspaper outside the sports pages in 2009 and 2010 and both argued strongly that it was the choice of the individual – also, that it shouldn’t be a accessory, as this was the time expensive poppy broaches were beginning to appear. By 2015, I reckon I was where I am now: able to see both sides, but increasingly sceptical about the relationship football has with remembrance, feeling the personal has been made into a public show, turning it almost into a festive season, with services starting in October, diluting impact. 

At least this shows that, when some on here claim I never change my mind, this isn’t true. My thoughts on various subjects continue to evolve. I still don’t see the harm of a poppy armband, worn by individuals, on Remembrance Day. A lonely, understated gesture, with real meaning. I don’t like what it has become: demonstrative, showy, unquestioning, a command. So while I don’t stand by everything I wrote back then, but I certainly stand by the sentiment in the final line of the 2011 column. ‘People died for our freedom; and that certainly includes the freedom to say no…’ 

And now, onwards to 2018.

Point two: about tying yellow ribbons.

I can’t wait for James McClean to proudly wear his Easter Lily. MM, Newry.

Indeed. And those who do so also claim it as a symbol of remembrance. It just so happens that it commemorates those who died in or were executed after the Easter Uprising of 1916, and was latterly associated with terrorism. Its wearers will argue those men died fighting for freedom just as British soldiers did in their foreign wars. As I have said on this subject before, Japan’s war memorial shrine contains the names of 14 people we consider Class A war criminals. Remembrance is not as simple an issue as we make out.

Take Pep Guardiola out of the equation for a second. How dare anyone have the audacity to try to compare the poppy with the yellow ribbon. The ribbon is a political statement and signifies unrest. The poppy is remembering the death of all servicemen and women during the world war and is a sign of peace. The two are polar opposites. Big Nose Bert, Manchester.

Only in your interpretation, Bert. While I do feel the poppy and yellow ribbon are different, the poppy is not limited to the dead of world wars; it commemorates, in the Royal British Legion’s own words, ‘the Armed Forces community, past and present’. Here is their explanation. ‘By wearing a poppy, you aren’t just remembering the fallen: you’re supporting a new generation of veterans and service personnel that need our support.’ And, Bert, you may consider that a noble cause and so will a lot of people; but these wars, particularly those in the Middle East, cannot be divorced from the political. 

You cannot argue that the poppy has no connection to unrest when it implies support for soldiers serving in the Gulf. Not everyone agrees with those wars, and certainly they have had little connection with peace. I understand what it means to you, Bert, but if that isn’t what the Royal British Legion says it means, then we can’t take your individual interpretation to divorce it from politics, or even yellow ribbons.

Pep Guardiola has an FA charge for making a political statement by wearing a yellow ribbon

Pep Guardiola has an FA charge for making a political statement by wearing a yellow ribbon

Condoning a flagrant disregard for written rules will make the Football Association look weak and inept. I'm on neither side but I think Guardiola is overdoing it. You can't keep stepping on toes just because you're an exceptional manager. I also totally disagree with the notion that the FA should put up with his disregard for their rules just so that it doesn’t end up pushing him out. Is he expecting a pat on the back? He is not doing the Premier League a favour by being the manager of Manchester City. If he quits, it will be because he wants another challenge, as he has done before. Rilycks Rankin, Nigeria.

I don’t disagree, I simply think from the FA’s perspective there could have been a less controversial, negotiated path, or one that was proactive, not reactive, acknowledging that the poppy win over FIFA would in time impact on their own rulebook. I also feel that, if all else fails, and Guardiola is facing bans from the touchline that would damage his professional impact, it would not be wrong of Manchester City to remind him of his duties as an employee. 

Ultimately, they pay him to manage their football team and he knew the rules of engagement when he took the job. If a personal stance is negatively affecting his ability to work, they would be fully entitled to confront him on it. Looking at the league table, I would imagine they would look for a peaceable solution before it got to that, though.

I watch football. I’m not interested in attending political rallies. Why are Manchester City fans now wearing a yellow ribbon? Peej, Manchester.

The Football Association has just ensured that each Manchester City game will be a sea of yellow ribbons. We wore them in thousands on Sunday. Preacher John, Sheffield.

Yes, but as Peej asked, why? If it is purely in support of Pep Guardiola, then you might wish to look at the Catalan independence issue as a whole, rather than the aspect of it that simply aligns you with a successful manager of your team. It is a vastly complex issue with historical as well as modern economic and nationalist issues to consider, but here is one tiny thread to tug at to get you started. 

Critics of the Catalan independence movement argue that this is largely a middle class revolt. Catalonia is very prosperous, with good industry and a strong financial sector. Those doing well think the central state misuses their tax money and would rather keep it for their own purposes in the region. They may have a point. I’m not a Spanish taxpayer, I do not know enough about Spanish government efficiency to say. 

I do think, however, that an independence movement that has considerably more support among the middle strata of society than in working class areas – and this is true in Barcelona – may not be the glorious uprising of the downtrodden that is imagined among City’s faithful. Let’s say London wanted independence because too much of its tax revenue was being wasted on projects in the north. I don’t see anyone at City wearing a ribbon for that. 

And now a musical interlude that the more Fall-centric of you will have seen coming a mile off. Gone but never forgotten.

You are missing one vital point. This is England. If Holland want to ban English players from wearing poppies then go for it, but are we not allowed to have a national identity? Why connect paying our respects to people who paid with their lives decades ago, to taking sides in a present day fall out in a country on the verge of civil war? Darthtater, Simonstone.

As established, Darth, the poppy is not solely about remembrance of generations past, but very much of the moment. As for this being England – the Premier League takes pride in its melting pot, cosmopolitan nature. With so many nationalities not just welcomed but encouraged, we can hardly expect them to hand in their cultural identities with their passports at Heathrow.

Political or not, the poppy has really lost its use as a sign of remembrance. It is now proof of how much you love your country, much like the yellow ribbon. Meaning neither are required in football. ParanoidisAndroid, Leeds.

At Wembley last Sunday, I was in Costa, whiling away time before the media gate opened. A guy asked if I was using the other chair at the table. Normal guy, but I noticed he was wearing a tiny, metal poppy on his lapel. It’s February. What’s that about? I’m not saying he was harming anyone, he probably feels that we should always remember, not just one day a year but every day, and I get that. He is perfectly entitled to his standpoint. 

But if every day is remembrance day, then no day is remembrance day, because the power and meaning of the gesture is diluted. If a poppy is permanently attached to your outer layer of clothing, how much do you really think about putting it on? Please don’t think I am judging him. These are just my questions, because I consider these subjects constantly. I respect his right to wear what he likes, when he likes – but I also see PA’s point that these decisions are changing meaning, making the poppy as much about patriotism as remembrance.

Guardiola is a total hypocrite. He is an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup, taking their cash when we all know about the injustices in the country, as well as the mistreatment of the stadium workers. FIFA and UEFA, along with Guardiola, have legitimised regimes such as of Qatar. Guardiola then takes the coin of the United Arab Emirates – one of the top ten human rights abusers in the world. Guardiola would be imprisoned in the UAE for making political statements. Whinger, London.

‘It is what it is,’ when asked about these ethical anomalies was certainly an unimpressive answer. I won’t try to justify either regime, although I find Qatar’s links to terrorism the most troubling aspect of all, and the UAE seems to be on the right side of that argument. 

Equally, there are attempts in most gulf countries to modernise, to allow greater freedom and tolerance, but it will take time – just as it did here. We didn’t become a modern, western democracy overnight, either. No-one does – but sport is one of the areas we hope will help countries open up. Worth remembering too, that the portfolio of the Abu Dhabi Investment Group does not stop at Manchester City, so Guardiola is not alone in benefitting from links to the country. 

Now consider China, Russia, Qatar. It would be quite a line if every British resident, or British person, employed or linked to a troubling authoritarian regime, had to justify his position.

Regarding rainbow laces, since when was sexuality political? Glennjo95, Londonderry.

Try being gay in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia or Zimbabwe – and that’s just the African continent – and you’ll find out.

Football teams have hijacked the poppy to make headlines and make themselves look good in the media. All the furore yet until the 1990s no-one did it: does that mean they didn't care all those years? It would be better if they had kept it separate. Macca123us, Aberdeen.

I agree. Generations of footballers that had actually lost team-mates did not wear a poppy to play. Yet remembrance meant more in those times when 11am on November 11 had a power that is increasingly lost.

Point three: Alas, Serge Aurier.

Aurier is a liability. Why didn’t Mauricio Pochettino rotate Kieran Trippier with Kyle Walker-Peters this season? The Voice of Reason, England.

Pochettino sees these guys in training so I can only presume Walker-Peters hasn’t looked ready. He did in his cameo on Wednesday night, though, and I fail to see how he can have looked quite as callow as a man who committed three foul throws in the same match and who simply hacked at Douglas Costa in the match with Juventus, conceding a foolish penalty. I think having spent the money Pochettino simply has to use Aurier as the alternative to Trippier – because little about his performances justifies that place.

Serge Aurier fouled Douglas Costa and conceded a penalty when Tottenham played Juventus

Serge Aurier fouled Douglas Costa and conceded a penalty when Tottenham played Juventus

Point four: real fans, real protests, Bill Hicks and Alexis de Tocqueville. Say what you like about this column, but we’re not dumbing down.

When was the last time you actually paid to watch a game of football, Martin? You don't seem to understand that for us it is not so much about 22 players running around on a pitch but about community. Karren Brady, David Gold & David Sullivan have ripped that community apart in the name of nothing more than sheer corporate greed. The march will go ahead on March 10 and we will make our feelings known. It’s easy to sell your soul, but unfortunately not so easy to get it back. Bkem, London.

If it is only about community, why does everyone go nuts when West Ham lose, and walk out? They did at Upton Park, too, no matter the rose-tinted memories. The community isn’t affected by the result. The same people are all there. Might it be that West Ham fans, like all fans, also want a decent team and winning football. Yes? Well, that’s what the board was trying to deliver by moving to the new stadium. Bigger gates, bigger revenue streams, more money, better players. They haven’t handled it well. The investment, once sales are taken into account, is not as promised. But the move was an attempt to grow as all of their London rivals have grown; to avoid being left behind. 

As for me, February 10 was the last time I paid to watch a game. March 10 will be the next

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