The Sweeper: The Politics of Poppy Populism

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So, Remembrance Sunday has come and gone, and so have the weekend fixtures in the Premier League.  Did you notice your club donning silkscreen poppies on the centre of their shirts?  And did the gesture move you like a Last Post and Reveille to remember the horror of war?  If it did, you have the Sportsmail‘s Charles Sale to thank.  The columnist pushed a campaign to have clubs embroider poppies on their kits for this weekends matches, and publicly chastised those who refused.

Going after tabloids for pushing empty populist gestures onto an LCD readership is a bit like complaining about water being wet, but that didn’t stop the more rational voices in England from taking the bait, including WSC and the Guardian‘s Marina Hyde. Both argue that bullying clubs like Liverpool and Manchester United to wear poppies against their will denies the freedom of conscience the wars of the past century were fought for.

What’s perhaps more insidious about the Mail’s predictable campaign is that the poppy, the flower which grew over the buried dead in France in World War I (and, in bitter irony, the current drug scourge of occupied Afghanistan) and worn as a symbol of personal remembrance, has in recent years been co-opted as a political symbol abused by those with a particular militaristic axe to grind. Demanding poppies be grafted on the chests of millionaire footballers, nestled in just over top conglomerate shirt sponsors, does nothing to help us remember the terrible cost of armed conflict.  It does, however, tell us quite a lot about how to go about shaming everyone by exploiting the memory of fallen soldiers.

Worldwide News

  • The Chicago Fire are through to the next MLS playoff round, as are Houston and Real Salt Lake (Chivas v. LA is coming up tonight).  Meanwhile, Jason Davis looks at the disappointing attendances for playoff fixtures and wonders if things need to change.  Expect push back from the usual quarters on this one.
  • Real Madrid just—just—took the Madrid derby against Atletico 3-2 on the weekend.  Meanwhile, Manuel Pellegrini is upbeat, despite getting hit in the face with a stone.
  • Paul Hayward calls time on Arsene Wenger‘s futbol del arte approach with Arsenal: “Arsenal force us to confront a philosophical tangle. Do a club need to win things to bring meaning to their endeavours or is the pursuit of creativity sufficient to justify the effort? This is where Wenger’s problem starts, because he cannot cultivate artistic football without promising something at the end of it.”
  • There was some hot FA Cup action this weekend too, and gives a good breakdown of what the press managed to pick up on.
  • Jennifer Doyle at From a Left Wing takes on ESPN‘s coverage of that terribly refereed New Mexico v. BYU college soccer game.
  • Lothar Matthaeus complains that as one of Germany’s greatest living footballers, he should be getting more attention from German football administrators, but isn’t and wonders why, and in doing so, sort of answers his own question. I personally will never forgive anyone who participated in the Italia 90 final.

Richard Whittall really missed you last week, and also writes at A More Splendid Life.

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