Pep Guardiola vs The FA: Political symbols and hypocrisy in football

Andy Dillon by Andy Dillon / 16 March 2018, 09:22

HERE’S A worrying thought: the credibility of English football rests with Boris Johnson.

Our foreign secretary is drumming his fingers on his desk while contemplating whether to use the England football team as a way of hitting back at Russia in the current unnerving confrontation over the poisoning of a former double agent.

A weapon of mass distraction if you like, to draw our attention to the latest spat between a genuine superpower and a fading one who love picking fights with each other.

While we wait to see if we will still be around come June and that there will actually be a world to have a cup in, I’m sure Pep Guardiola will be watching developments very closely indeed. If not, he should be.

For if our Government opt to boycott this summer’s tournament in Russia and refuse to send our boys over there, Guardiola will have every right to feel particularly aggrieved.

Manchester City’s manager should be writing to the FA in a heartbeat and demanding his £20,000 back. That’s the twenty grand he was fine for wearing a yellow ribbon on his coat towards the end of last year and on numerous occasions since.

FA chief exec Martin Glenn dished out the punishment while pontificating that it was ‘a symbol of Catalan independence and we don’t want political symbols in football.”

Whether or not the tiny emblem was simply in support of jailed politicians in his native Catalonia or him nailing his colours to the mast in the independence debate is irrelevant now.

Because we have seen in a far more cynical and brazen way that football might not want to mix with politics but politics just loves mixing with football.

When it suits a government of any persuasion, sport is one of the first things they turn to in order to turn the screw on the opposition.

That’s because they know sport but in particular football appeals to the masses the world over and there’s no end to the PR mileage to be gained from threatening to stop a bus load of global stars and kids’ heroes from going to a major tournament worth billions of roubles to the hard up Russian regime.

It’s a trick as nasty and deceitful as Danny Welbeck’s dive in the penalty box on Thursday night while playing for Arsenal.

And while the self-righteous in football over here like to distance themselves from cheating by labelling it the ‘foreign disease’ - it’s no holds barred when political points are up for grabs.

Maybe this is why England boss Gareth Southgate was so non-committal about the subject at his press conference this week to announce the squads for forthcoming friendlies against Holland and Italy; throwing out a line that he won’t force any of his players to go if they are worried.

Glenn and his cohorts at Wembley must be fidgeting a little uncomfortably awaiting to see what course of action Johnson decides upon and whether to use the England football team as a political pawn and thus make the FA look ever so slightly hypocritical in their stance over Guardiola.

Martin Glenn may not want political symbols in football but he has failed to realise that football IS one and he could soon by £20K out of pocket as a result.

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