THE 2016 Poppy controversy looked like being a little different than over the previous decade where the attention would usually focus on Celtic supporters and their reaction to whatever was being forced upon them by the Scottish football authorities.
Before 2008 the poppy was not a contentious subject, people either wore one or they didn’t. Many believed that their contribution was going to help old soldiers who had fought Fascism in the Second World War. Celtic fans would wear their poppy to games if they were minded to do so and it was entirely uncontroversial.
Sadly that wasn’t the situation in the north of Ireland were the loyalists had morphed the poppy into a religious, unionist and pro-British symbol. Broadly speaking Unionists could be identified by the wearing of the poppy as a symbol of their political beliefs and Nationalists did not wear a poppy because of what it had come to represent in the troubles six counties.
This political symbolism, born in Northern Irish Unionism, has been exported to Scotland through football rivalry and has resulted in two distinct camps forming – the Celtic support (who have increasing moved away from wearing a poppy as a consequence) and the Rangers support, their two clubs (first one died in 2012) and their compliant Scottish Media, guided by a dark arts PR agency paid to push pro-Rangers and anti-Celtic stories.
So this year, due to the World Cup fixtures falling on Remembrance weekend, Celtic looked like being spared the usual battering in the media and the focus would be on England v Scotland at Wembley.
FIFA of course have thrown a spanner in the works by forbidding the poppy to appear on the strips or armbands of either country and this has caused a national outrage in Brexit Britain.
The Prime Minister got involved in the Commons earlier in the week and demanded that both England and Scotland be allowed to wear the poppy on black armbands. FIFA are having none of it, they regard it as a political message and have rules in place forbidding such messages appearing on football strips.
Regan at the SFA has even consulted his lawyers about the legal implications of the SFA breaking the governing body’s rules. The Resolution 12 guys will no doubt see the irony in this.
Then today it has been announced that FIFA are to open up a disciplinary case against Ireland because someone has grassed them up for commemerating the 1916 Easter Rising on their shirts in a friendly match in the spring. It looks like we’re getting dragged back in Bhoys!
Of course we only have to look back to Saturday 13th November 1999 to reflect on just seriously the SFA and the FA took paying their respects on Remembrance Weekend to the fallen of the 1914-18 and 1939-45 World Wars. England were at Hampden in a European Championship Qualifier and if you look closely as both the Scotland and England strips you will notice that there was not a poppy in sight!
Have a look at the video below.
So Scotland could face England in the Euros Play-offs on Remembrance weekend and neither nation had poppies on their strips to commemorate the Fallen. Did they forget?
Last weekend the Comedy Club Sevco Rangers had their own Poppyfest a little early, due to the international break next weekend and the fact that they visit Dingwall this Sunday.
Have a look at their match day programme’s front cover for last Saturday’s match at Ibrox against Kilmarnock. It’s astonishing.
A CQN’er reminded us today of an article he wrote in 2010 for a Celtic fanzine. He thought we’d like to update it slightly and reproduce here, with his permission. Here goes…
On 8th October 2010 Celtic made an announcement where they confirmed that Poppyscotland had requested through the SPL that all clubs wear the poppy on the shirt during the weekend fixtures of 13th/14th November 2010 around Remembrance Sunday.
Normally this would have been the signal for the annual circus starring the Scottish media and the Celtic support to come to town where the former attacked the latter whilst the latter fought amongst themselves. Thankfully the final paragraph in bold for emphasis in the club’s statement that said:
“In light of Poppyscotland’s decision to carry out alternative Remembrance activities from next year, Celtic Football Club has decided that it will be giving another charity the opportunity to feature on the Celtic shirt in 2011 to raise awareness of their work. Further details of this will be announced in due course.”
This suggested that this is the last time the circus will come to town.
It is ironic in the extreme that an event that is supposed to commemorate the memory of the many that died to end conflict has itself been such a major source of it. It is an episode in Scottish social history that shames Scotland and the media who used it to sell papers, increase phone in figures, maximise revenue and attack Celtic.
Celtic too have to take some criticism for not foreseeing how divisive the PoppyScotland approach to the SPL would be, particularly to our Irish support who, for their own good reasons, did not want to remember, most certainly did not want to have to remember and felt the form of remembrance in the wearing of symbolic poppy on the Celtic jersey was a denial of the freedom of choice that those who died fought to protect as well as trampling on the rights they have been struggling for since the sixties. They were not alone in some of their feelings although they too must recognise that not all Celtic supporters have had the same family history to shape their views. Respect all round.
PoppyScotland too should take pause to reflect if they had been far seeing enough and given enough thought to what they were asking of Celtic, why they asked it and if the charity they represent was best served by this idea.
As for the Scottish media their response to the sounds of protest that came from some of the Celtic support was probably their most shameful hour (until the last three weeks) and hopefully in the third year after the disrespectful frenzy that filled the newspapers and air waves, they will mute or better still drop their criticism entirely and appreciate that not everyone wants to remember in the same way and most do not want the form of remembrance forced on them through guilt or conformity. A memory coerced is not a memory worth having.
For the whole Celtic support, whilst there is another year of the circus to endure, perhaps the knowledge it is the last and perhaps also from a degree of poppy fatigue, we will see this year’s Remembrance Sunday on 14th November at St Mirren pass quietly and respectfully not just in memory of the dead but more importantly out of respect for what they died for – a peaceful world.
The first Poppy Circus of 2008 inspired the following in its aftermath, let’s hope the message it contains inspires more fitting ways to remember and respect in the future those who died in the past.
PAYING RESPECT – SPEAKING FOR THE DEAD
From the land of beyond
I watch and shake my head
At those fighting to pay respect to my sacrifice
In the way that they think respect should be paid to the dead.
I’m an unknown soldier killed in a trench somewhere
Bled to death as I watched rats drink from my ebbing earth life.
I died in the hope that all fighting would stop
NO MORE WAR.
But war takes many forms
It is not all bullets and shells
It’s not always fought in trenches either
Its most common battlefield is in the heart and minds of men.
In the last few days I have witnessed a battlefield,
I have watched the team I support dragged through the mud
By the mistaken, who have turned what was intended as a show of respect
Into yet another battlefield.
You do not respect me when you wear a poppy
You do not respect me when you have a minute’s silence
You do not respect me when you have a minute’s applause
You do not respect me when you walk out
You especially do not respect me when you try to divide a community
Then a country
With spurious arguments of what constitutes respect
And then broadcast those views to the nation
In radio and newspapers
In a manner and tone that encourages division
Division that becomes a cause of
If you think that all these are respect
You are among the mistaken.
The Poppy, the minute’s silence, the minute’s applause
These are all SYMBOLS
They have become empty symbols
Ditch them in the trench in which I died.
If you want to truly respect me
Remember why I died
LEST YOU FORGET
It was so that there would be
NO MORE WAR
And let NO MORE WAR break out
In the only battlefield that counts
In each heart and in each mind
If a symbol is needed at all
Find a symbol that unites
Use a symbol for eternity
(For eternity is where I am)
Or even the white poppy for peace
And do not war over which one!
But the best way to remember my sacrifice
Is not through symbols
It’s to cultivate peace in your heart
Your mind and your soul
So that no matter the symbol
No matter how much anyone may turn it to their particular cause
You always and truly respect the sacrifice I made.
So that there will be
NO MORE WAR