Belfast Telegraph

IFA must battle Fifa over poppy charges

Editor's Viewpoint

The decision by football's governing body, Fifa, to begin disciplinary proceedings against the Northern Ireland and Wales football associations over poppy displays at international matches on Armistice Day beggars belief.

Never mind that the IFA believes it followed Fifa's guidelines in staging a dignified act of remembrance to fallen war heroes, Fifa had absolutely no right interfering in the matter at all.

Yes it can, and should, clamp down on teams or supporters who behave in a sectarian, offensive or dangerous manner, but what authority does it believe it possesses to tell football associations, players or fans that they cannot pay homage on a specific one-off occasion each year to those who gave their lives so that succeeding generations could be free of dictatorship and unjustified censure?

Fifa, far from occupying some moral high ground on this or any other issue, stands accused in the court of public opinion of standing in a pit of scandal. It could be described as the most morally compromised body in sporting history.

The IFA held a minute's silence and a wreath laying ceremony before the match against Azerbaijan and poppy banners and a poppy mosaic were displayed in the crowd. It was a dignified, appropriate and solemn act of remembrance, not some display of triumphalism.

The great irony of Fifa's poppycock decision to take disciplinary proceedings against the IFA, in particular, is that this year - the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme - the whole of Ireland, virtually for the first time, truly recognised the sacrifice of those servicemen and women killed in action.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with Sinn Fein colleagues - including one whose great grandfather was killed in that battle - went to Flanders to officially recognise the fact that tens of thousands of Irish soldiers, of all traditions, died there.

While no one would expect him to dilute his republicanism, it was a powerful, symbolic act which recognises that honouring the fallen is not the preserve of any one tradition, nor should anyone feel less than pride in their courage.

Just as the wider community has come to realise that no one should hide the selfless actions of their forebearers from public gaze, the IFA must defend its action with all its might, sticking by its metaphorical guns and putting the tyranny of Fifa to flight.

Belfast Telegraph


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