Poppies, football and perspectives: why I agree with FIFA

November 3, 2016 in Mark, Culture, Random, Sport

Next Friday the England football team will take on Scotland in an important World Cup qualifying game, and since the game happens on November 11th, Remembrance Day in the UK, both teams have proposed that they wear poppies (the traditional British symbol of war remembrance) to commemorate those who lost their lives in past wars.

PoppyIn the past 24 hours it has been revealed that FIFA, the governing body for world football, has denied the request of England and Scotland to wear poppies, as it violates their principle of not allowing political, religious or commercial messages on team shirts. Many in the UK have reacted strongly to this decision, with the Prime Minister Theresa May saying it is “outrageous”, claiming that the poppy is a neutral, non-political symbol to remember those who have died.

While it is undoubtedly true that many who wear a poppy do so purely to remember loved ones who have passed away in wars, I think it is naive to think that the poppy would be universally seen to be non-political. Read the rest of this entry →

Joyeux Noel

December 24, 2011 in Mark, Culture, Theology

This Christmas Eve we spent the afternoon watching the movie Joyeux Noel, the story of Christmas in the trenches during the First World War in 1914. The movie of how the soldiers of various nationalities who had been fighting each other for months ceased their fire, greeted each other in no-man’s land and even played football together.

The most striking part of the movie is the absurdity of the war. When the men meet up at Christmas they realise they have a huge amount in common, and yet on every other day they are trying to kill each other because that is what their commanders, and their nations, have ordered them to do.

In many ways the First World War was the height of modernity, with the European nations accepting without question the narrative of the unstoppable march of civilisation and progress. In reality the nations at war had a great deal in common – shared histories, similar languages and cultures, and apparently a shared religion. And yet their narratives of progress, despite their similarities, could not co-exist but clashed leading to the loss of millions of lives. Read the rest of this entry →