Pep Guardiola: Politics and football and big fuss over a yellow ribbon

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during the Premier League match between Manchester City and AFC Bournemouth at Etihad Stadium on December 23, 2017 in Manchester, England.

Suresh Nair

POLITICS and football may sometimes be of the wrong chemistry. Likewise with wearing a yellow ribbon at English Premier League (EPL) matches.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola defiantly wore a yellow ribbon on his suit in support of jailed pro-independence Catalan politicians during the recent 3-0 League Cup final victory over Arsenal at Wembley Stadium.

The 47-year-old Spaniard was charged by the Football Association this week over his continued wearing of the ribbon — English soccer’s governing body saying it broke their rules on political messages.

Former Barcelona manager Guardiola has accepted the charge and was fined by The FA over the weekend. But he made an impassioned defence of his action when asked about it by reporters.

“I accept if I broke the rules, I accept the fine. I am a human being, it’s about humanity. There are four guys in prison, plus other guys (in exile) apparently for sedition, but for that you have to have weapons, and we don’t have weapons. We just have votes in the ballot boxes.

“This is always with me, always will be with me until the last, because it’s not about politicians, it’s about people who didn’t do anything, about democracy.”

Many Manchester City fans also wore the yellow ribbons, which were being handed out on the Wembley Way approach to England’s national stadium before kickoff.

TROUBLE IN SPAIN

Spain’s Supreme Court ordered the arrest of former Catalan Member of Parliament Anna Gabriel last week after she failed to appear in court to answer charges related to the region’s independence campaign.

Former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont fled Spain shortly after Catalonia declared independence in October. He remains in self-imposed exile in Brussels with four members of his previous cabinet.

But the Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn says “Guardiola has “pissed off” many Spaniards by wearing a yellow ribbon, he branded as an unequivocal political symbol that breached FA rules on what managers could display on their clothing”.

He declares: “Where do you draw the line? Should we have someone with a UKIP badge, someone with an Isis badge?”

“We have re-written Law 4 of the game so that things like a poppy are OK. But things that are going to be highly divisive, and that could be strong religious symbols, it could be the Star of David, it could the hammer and sickle, it could be a swastika, anything like Robert Mugabe on your shirt, these are the things we don’t want.

“And to be honest, and to be very clear, Pep Guardiola’s yellow ribbon is a political symbol, it’s a symbol of Catalan independence. I can tell, you there are many more Spaniards, non-Catalans, who are pissed off by it.

“All we are doing is even-handedly applying the Laws of the Game. Poppies are not political symbols; that yellow ribbon is.”

YELLOW RIBBONS

Ironically, from time memorial, yellow ribbons are commonly seen as a symbol to support troops and to give us hope. However, it is also a symbol for POW/MIA (Prisoners of War, Missing in Action), suicide prevention, adoptive parents, spina bifida, sarcoma, missing children, bone cancer, craniofacial acceptance, and endometriosis.

Even in Singapore, the Yellow Ribbon Project (YRP) seeks to engage the community in giving ex-offenders a second chance at life and to inspire a ripple effect of concerted community action to support ex-offenders and their families.

YRP spearheaded by the Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-Offenders (CARE) Network, aims to improve the effectiveness of rehabilitation of ex-offenders in Singapore through rehabilitation initiatives to help them reintegrate into society.

Through the YRP, we also hope to generate greater awareness of the need for second chances, inspire more Singaporeans to accept ex-offenders into their lives and encourages more to come forward to demonstrate support for the campaign.

Sometimes, I wonder, too, over the fuss over yellow ribbons. There have been inconsistencies of the FA’s stance on poppies and also the wearing of rainbow laces. To fair-minded folks the yellow ribbon did not constitute an offensive political symbol.

It is universally regarded as a logical sign of peace from Argentina to Afghanistan, India to Iceland and Japan to Jamaica.

Yellow ribbons, wrapped around trees, telephone polls, satellite dishes, pinned to lapels, or fluttering from car radio antennas, mail boxes and shopping carts, have blossomed into a national reminder of combat in the Gulf.

But I agree that the symbol is ambiguous, flaunted with equal fervour by supporters and opponents of the war.

I remember the yellow ribbon, inspired by a 1973 song and popularised during the Iran hostage crisis that ended in January 1981, has become a patriotic hommage to the soldiers themselves, a way of sheltering the warriors from controversy about the war.

My American friends tell me that if there is a unifying thread to the country’s conflicting sentiments about the war in the Gulf, it is a conviction that this generation of soldiers should not be treated as shabbily as were the combatants in Vietnam.

The yellow ribbon is simply their promissory note.

In my view, the yellow ribbon must be seriously and sincerely viewed as patriotic, not political. It has become so apolitical and ubiquitous a symbol that some feel they need to attach it to a more pointed message.

Former Barcelona manager Guardiola’s impassioned defence of his action is sensible and the book should not be thrown at him for his personal conviction of a yellow ribbon.

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