FIFA deemed it to be a 'political symbol’, strictly forbidden in footballing legislation. Wearing poppies is no more a political symbol than wearing black armbands for terrorist attacks, and FIFA’s initial fine deserved the criticism it received. However, it does beg the question, political or not, why is FIFA so intent on keeping politics out of football?
Donald Trump has had his fair share of controversy in politicising sport recently. The groomed Cheeto added more fuel to the opposition (which now seems to be everyone but him) fire by childishly bickering with NFL players, after they followed Kaepernick's lead by protesting the national anthem. The President believes that politics has no place in sport, and anti-Trump politics has no place anywhere.
Outraged Americans have called for their first amendment rights and demanded free speech for the athletes. Either politics is moving slowly from American football to English football, or a unique culture is present in American sport that will never infiltrate the British ranks.
Football is art and mass entertainment much like music, cinema and theatre, yet it is treated differently when it comes to politics. It is almost expected that musicians have a political stance (more often than not left wing), and fans engage with this intersection of two very different public spheres; one brimming with talent and artistic flare, the other with incompetence and inconsideration.
“Oh Jeremy Corbyn” can be heard at every youth-targeted music festival, even more often than “Oh Santi Cazorla” was sung at the Emirates before the smiley Spaniard was taken away by the injury devil to the fiery depths of the physician's office. Is it because of the English tradition of shutting up and getting on with it, or because of apathy that no political protests are seem at sports grounds, by players or fans? Or is there simply nothing to protest about?
There certainly is a cause continuing to gain political ground. Wimbledon took the precaution of banning in advance the infamous Jeremy Corbyn chant from the 2017 championships, perhaps an unnecessary course of action, considering the demographic the pricey tickets attract.
Nonetheless, yet another association demonstrated their anxiety to prevent the infiltration of politics into their sport. Although they may claim that chants distract players and interrupt rallies (I experienced the strict attitudes myself at Wimbledon this year, getting a stern telling off from a severe steward for whispering during a rally), there is an ulterior motive. Politics must be discussed outside of the grounds, and once you're inside only tennis must be discussed. And perhaps the consumption of Pimm’s.
As for footballers, they have never been known for being intellectual giants. An economics and politics degree from Warwick university earned Steve Heighway the title of 'Big Bamber’ in the Liverpool team of 1970, after University Challenge host Bamber Gascoigne.
Perhaps this renowned lack of intellect combined with a noticeable shortage of British players contributes to the absence of a political presence in the game.
But whether it is seen or not, politics should not be forcibly removed from football, or any other sport. It is a mass culture that can inspire political involvement, and allowing opinions to be stated would perhaps increase dismally low voter turnout.
There is, of course, the argument that extremist political views would be tolerated if any politics is permitted, however a firm line can be drawn at offence.
I am far from encouraging political activism in sport, rather showing that there is a place for it where it must not be quashed.
Indeed, other art forms are expected to provoke thought, whereas football is simply meant to entertain. But football is no different, in that it provides a platform for individuals to express their beliefs. And, unless this is racism or offensive thought, it should be tolerated.