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Poll: IFA asks Fifa if Northern Ireland team can wear poppy - but is it a political symbol?

National team to face Azerbaijan in World Cup qualifier on Armistice Day

By Cate McCurry

Published 02/11/2016

Northern Ireland face Azerbaijan in a World Cup qualifier next Friday
Northern Ireland face Azerbaijan in a World Cup qualifier next Friday
Andy Allen
Doug Beattie

The Irish FA has written to football's world governing body Fifa to clarify whether Northern Ireland players can wear poppies on their shirts next week in a crucial match.

Officials made the request ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Azerbaijan next Friday, which is Armistice Day.

Fifa bans political, religious or commercial messages on shirts - including the poppy.

 

Yesterday the Scottish FA said that its request to wear armbands featuring poppies against England on the same night had been rejected. An official said the world governing body was sticking to the letter of the law.

However, the IFA hopes a deal can be brokered that will allow Michael O'Neill's squad to make some remembrance gesture. A series of questions put to Fifa included the potential penalties if players went ahead and wore poppies without the governing body's permission.

More: Poppy not political symbol, says ex-PoW, as 200,000 urge U-turn on football ban

Fifa and the England team agreed that players could wear a poppy on armbands during a game against Spain on November 12, 2011.

A spokesman for the IFA said: "There will be an act of remembrance at the game on Armistice Day.

"We wrote to Fifa last week and are currently waiting their response as to what we are permitted to do under their game protocols."

Other options include holding a minute's silence ahead of the game.

Londonderry-born footballer James McClean has been criticised by some people for not wearing a poppy at current club West Bromwich Albion and previous club Sunderland.

The Republic of Ireland star has cited the British Army's role in the Bloody Sunday massacre in his home city as the reason.

More: Gregory Campbell blasts James McClea again over latest refusal to wear poppy on his shirt

Last year Ulster Rugby came under fire after players failed to wear a poppy during a match played on Remembrance Sunday.

Ulster defended its position saying that a minute's silence was observed and a wreath was laid at its war memorial at the Kingspan stadium.

Speaking about next Friday's Northern Ireland game, Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie (above) said he hoped an agreement can be reached. The war veteran said this year was particularly important as it was the Battle of the Somme centenary.

"I hope they are given permission to wear the poppy as it is a symbol of remembrance, reflection and sacrifice," he said.

"If they aren't given permission they can find another way of remembering it. It's an important symbol, so hopefully they can do something on that day.

"I also hope people can see it for what it is and that it does not create controversy.

"We don't want anyone forced to wear it, as that deflects from the meaning of the poppy."

Mr Beattie added: "This is a corporate choice that IFA have come to and they have to make sure everyone is comfortable wearing it."

Party colleague and fellow veteran Andy Allen (left), who helped found a charity for Army ex-personnel, said: "The poppy is not a religious, political or commercial message - it's a symbol of respect and remembrance.

"It's an opportunity for people to come together and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice and pay homage to those who fought for freedom."

Belfast Telegraph

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