The soccer teams from England and Scotland will sport poppies when they take to the pitch in a World Cup qualifier over the Remembrance Day weekend. This comes as a senior FIFA official suggested that British teams shouldn’t be exempt from rules that prohibit the wearing of the flower during play.
Back in 2011, England brokered a compromise with FIFA wherein players were allowed to wear poppies on black armbands rather than on their jerseys for a friendly game versus Spain. It was hoped that a similar arrangement would be agreed upon for the World Cup qualifier with Scotland on Friday Nov. 11.
But on Wednesday, FIFA’s secretary general Fatma Samoura reiterated that the sport’s governing body was unwilling to cede any ground on the thorny issue.
“Britain is not the only country that has been suffering as a result of war,” Samoura, who is Senegalese, said according to the Independent. “My own continent has been torn by war for years. The only question is ‘why are we doing exceptions for just one country and not the rest of the world?'”
FIFA says its position is supported by many in the international soccer community who feel that Britain might not be happy if teams hailing from certain other countries tried to wear symbols to honour their war dead.
“The poppy is an important symbol of remembrance and we do not believe it represents a political, religious or commercial message, nor does it relate to any one historical event,” read a statement from the FA. “The FA intend to pay appropriate tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by having the England team wear black armbands bearing poppies in our fixture on Armistice Day.”
The English FA’s stance was mirrored by its Scottish counterpart, with Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan telling BBC Scotland that his team too is prepared to defy FIFA.
Should England and Scotland wear poppies on the field, they would run the risk of being docked points, although FIFA hasn’t clarified whether it will actually apply the letter of the law in this case.