Monthly Archives: November 2011

#oneaday55: Progress through conversation

So FIFA backed down over the Poppy row? Not exactly what actually happened was a diplomatic agreement was made after some protest and subsequent discussion. FIFA’s rules are not actually broken and the FA supported by its chairman the Duke of Cambridge, got acknowledgement that their voice was heard. Poppies will be present on the black armbands that they England players will wear and Spain will also respect our position. Poppies will be everywhere else in the stadium and on the tracksuits and everyone is now calm and happy.

The FA have even agreed to give 500 tickets for the match to members of HM Forces and a further 1000 for the game against Sweden. Not wishing to be picky, but that really does not seem to be much. It’s a gesture.The FA and the players could make a sizeable donation to The Poppy Appeal, match fees and ticket income, or food , programme, sponsor receipts and there is still time to reconnect with the people by doing something radical. I fully appreciate the FA is all but skint, and yes future precedents could be set, but so would vital examples and those are what we need in these testing and troubled times. We all need to see beyond ‘the money’ and reset so many ‘games’ and this would be a fantastic step in the right direction. If one of the many lasting legacies of
the fallen from all wars is to ‘nudge’ those lucky enough to earn and live well  to think about the wider society they live in, then the spirit of togetherness can be rekindled and progress will be made.

It is also a lesson that we all have the right to protest if we feel that we are being wronged, individually and as a community. That protest should always be peaceful but it should be listened to. Our Prime Minister felt it right to protest to FIFA and I hope our Government will always listen to those who make their disaffection heard, all be it in a peaceful manner. Real progress can only ever be made through a proper conversation in my experience.

 

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#oneaday 54: A corner of some field that will forever be England?

When asked by a good friend last week  in the pub on Bonfire Night [a celebration of the execution of those involved in a Papist plot to assassinate the King of England some 400 years ago], about my views on
FIFA’s decision to ban the Poppy from the England football team’s shirts at this weekend’s friendly, at Wembley against Spain,  I said I felt it was probably the right decision. I based this on the simple logic that national kits should be free from any advertising commercial or otherwise, and free from all political symbols. That is not to say that I regard the Poppy as a political symbol or indeed advertising. It is a tradition in Britain and one which I am personally very proud of.

However, I have thought further on this issue and have come up with two ideas – one radical and one not so radical.

The national football team have, I believe, become toxic. The attitude of some players on and off the pitch has often not been a good example of sporting endeavour and gentlemanly behaviour. The Football Association have
become increasingly marginalised as a result of self induced incompetence and a vicious and sustained attack on the part of the Premier League in order to further increase the power of the latter within the game. Both team and Association have lost the respect of the fans and the nation in general, I would argue.

This island union made up of its component nations fought the evil of fascism in order to preserve its independence and freedom. That was the Second World War. Ironically the Poppy was introduced after the Great War (latterly known as the First World War) which was far from a struggle against the evil of fascism and far more about the nations of Europe fighting over territory as they had done for a thousand years previously. Colloquially, it was a fuck up of enormous proportions by the ruling elite of Europe, but  let’s not go there! The tradition of wearing a red Poppy to commemorate Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday is established and it is the democratic right of anyone to have the choice as top whether they wear one or not.

Back to football. If the FA had any gumption, it would offer each member of the England football team the choice as to whether they wanted to wear a Poppy or not, no matter what FIFA say. Indeed, in 1936 to the eternal shame of the FA the England football team were ordered to salute Mr Hitler with the now infamous right arm raised at 45 degrees towards the Nazi leader when England played a friendly against Germany in Berlin. At the time, this was considered polite but with 20/20 hindsight it was perhaps not
exactly right and proper. If the match had been played at Wembley, would the German FA have ordered the German team to wave politely at Mr Hitler issued ‘three cheers for a jolly good fellow’? I think not.

If the referee at Wembley refused to referee the match,  then provided the Spanish agreed to play the game, it could go ahead without match officials. This would be a significant and  seismic gesture and would directly challenge the authority of FIFA, an organisation that has consistently made its own rules up and pursued rampant commercial ideals ‘for the good of the game’. FIFA are self appointed and self regulated. They answer to no one and thus behave as a Totalitarian organisation. They are also headquartered in Switzerland, a nation that stayed neutral in all wars whilst acting as bankers to all regimes, including the Nazis. If the players and FA defied this rule, and if Spain stood shoulder to shoulder alongside them would send a message into the heart of FIFA that even Sepp Blatter could not ignore. All the paying fans in the stadium plus all those watching on TV and via the Internet would react in a positive way and it would be history in the making. We already know that the German FA have sent messages of support to the English FA such is their despair at the power of FIFA.

Alternatively and perhaps realistically, the FA have to ‘play the game’ and tread a diplomatic course. So they should continue to negotiate and lobby for the right to wear the Poppy. They should also diplomatically defy FIFA,  perhaps insist
FIFA officials wear poppies, and should appeal to the players to donate theirmatch fee to the Poppy Appeal and all the match ticket proceeds also. This would be a step in the process of repairing the faith and the connection between the
exponents and custodians of our national game with those who support it. New Wembley needs a hand in the tradition stakes, how better than to be the site of 21st century peaceful defiance in the face of a totalitarian regime, indeed it could be the corner of some [foreign] field that will forever be England.

Either way, we all need to stand up to FIFA. After all when Mr Blatter eventually slips his mortal coil, I am sure FIFA will order the wearing of black armbands as a mark of respect to him at every international match on or around that day.

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#oneaday53: Democracy know your [place in] history

According to Wikipedia, ‘Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all the people have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal (and more or less direct) participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law. It can also encompass social, economic and cultural conditions that enable the free and equal practice of political participation. ‘

The term itself comes from the Greek  word δημοκρατία – (dēmokratía) “rule of the people”,which was coined from δῆμος (dêmos) “people” and κράτος (Kratos) “power”, in the middle of the 5th-4th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens following a popular uprising 508BC – again all according to Wikipedia.

Thus when the Western world heaved a collective sigh of relief a week ago when it was announced that a ‘deal’ had been done to ‘help’ Greece out with their debts. The deal was done by a few, behind closed doors and without agreat deal of democracy seemingly in play. Immediately ‘the markets’ cheered, bought and sold stock and overall bought more than they sold. Markets went up and everyone hailed salvation. No doubt some stock market dealers made a tidy sum that day.

Seven days on and the reluctant Prime Minister of Greece, Mr George Papandreou  who was elected on the back of a previous, highly corrupt regime incidentally, decided to call a time out on this EU move. Far from unilateral agreement on the part of the Greek
government on behalf of its people, George decided to get the ultimate buy in or buy out from his citizens and call a referendum.

This may or may not get through the Greek Parliament of course, and today it seems like it may not, but it feels like the first move of solidarity between the Greek people and their elected leaders for some time. It feels well overdue. Despite the fact that Greece has by all accounts been living the life of Riley on the back off corruption, back handers, inflated pay for all and very little economic infrastructure to support it all, this does feel right, despite what ‘the markets’ feel about it. Indeed the fact that politicians around the world are hostage to these financial markets highlights the complete and utter lack of democracy nowadays. No one voted for the people who run these markets, but seemingly they are the true masters of the universe, above law and free of any moral dignity other than to worship at the altar of Mammon.

Mr Papandreou has decided that his last hurrah will be an ironic nod to that ancient Greek principle of democracy. Ask the people simply ‘do you want to say yes to the loan accord from the EU, yes or no to Europe and yes or no to the Euro’.  Meanwhile the likes of Goldman Sachs, very much the puppet masters in this Greek tragedy will no doubt move on to their next deal, their next commission rake off and even bigger profits. The ‘Occupy’ movement will not go away until the elected leaders of democracies around the world take control of the financiers and their markets and ensure power is shared and not monopolised by the relatively few investment bankers and hedge funders who have fiddled and stolen from the many.

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