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Football: Prime Minister May savages Fifa over poppy issue

[LONDON] British Prime Minister Theresa May branded Fifa's opposition to England and Scotland players wearing poppies on their shirts in the 2018 World Cup qualifier on Armistice Day as 'outrageous'.

The Prime Minister added scandal-racked Fifa should sort their own affairs out rather than interfering in such matters as the wearing of poppies which commemorates the war dead.

"It is utterly outrageous," Ms May said when asked about the matter at Prime Minister's Questions.

"Our football players want to recognise those who gave their lives for our security.

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"It is absolutely right that they should be able to do so.

"A clear message is going from this house before they (Fifa) start telling us what to do they jolly well ought to sort their own house out."

England play Scotland in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley on November 11, the day when the United Kingdom traditionally remembers its war dead.

Under Fifa rules, players are not allowed to wear poppies on their shirts during the game because it would be a political statement.

In 2011, Fifa agreed to let England wear a poppy symbol on black armbands when they played Spain in a friendly.

The strength of feeling against Fifa's stance was reflected when by early Wednesday morning nearly 200,000 people had signed a petition urging them to rethink.

The petition was launched by former RAF navigator John Nichol - who along with his pilot John Peters were shot down and taken prisoner during the first Gulf War with Iraq in 1991.

"The poppy is not a political statement at all. It could not be further from a political statement," said Mr Nichol, who along with Mr Peters was tortured while being held prisoner.

"It is a statement of remembrance and an acknowledgement of sacrifice from the First World War right through to the sacrifices of our young men and women today.

"No-one should ever be banned from wearing a poppy and it brings shame on Fifa that they continue to propagate this misunderstanding of our heritage," added the 53-year-old.

Ms May's fellow Conservative lawmaker Damian Collins, chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sports Committee, told the BBC FIFA were playing a double game where the rule was good for one but not for another.

"Someone has shared with me on social media an Ireland football shirt that has a special embroidery on marking the centenary of the Easter Rising," said the 42-year-old, who is also a co-founder of 'New Fifa Now' a pressure group to force reform in the organisation.

"Fifa allow that, so I think people will find it astonishing that the poppy's not allowed." Mr Collins, though, has not given up hope Fifa might revise their decision.

"I hope common sense prevails. Fifa has strict rules banning political, religious or commercial symbols from shirts," said Mr Collins.

"I think it is insulting to people in this country to say a poppy is one of those sort of symbols."

AFP

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