In Blatter's Fields

If, like many of us, you figured you'd expiate some of the guilt you feel - or ought to feel - over the endless hours of soccer watching you inflict upon your mate by watching Bill and Cathy Cambridge get hitched in a process which seemed even more excruciatingly endless than, say, a Chivas/Toronto match, then you surely recall the golden opportunity you had to demonstrate to her why it is she chose you over that smirking, weaselfaced frat boy she had her eye on for a while. At one point, as the antique carriage carrying the House of Windsor's latest doofus heir and his brood mare paraded down the mall, Bill suddenly sat up a bit straighter and saluted while Cathy demurely bowed her head for a few moments and women the world over managed to rouse themselves from the massive overdose of chick crack they were marinating themselves in to turn and ask you why she did that.

Hopefully you were able to explain that they were passing the Cenotaph, which is a monument to the millions of British soldiers who were slaughtered in the last century by various iterations of German nationalism on the mindless orders of imbecilic English generals. Although they gussy up the description a bit.

Point being - since it's too late to use the info to boost your image with The One by having a ready answer - that they still tend to take their war dead seriously over there, unlike the US where "Memorial Day" is mostly an excuse for a Budweiser ad campaign featuring bimbos in swimsuits and a day spent burning perfectly good food on an 1800 degree barbeque grill.

Which brings us to the current kerfuffle regarding the uniforms to be worn by England, Scotland and Wales in their upcoming games.

Remembrance Sunday is this weekend, and their respective FA's want to put little embroidered poppies on their player's shirts.

(If you don't know that it's a reference to the famous poem - actually written by a Canadian - which begins

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row"

..then shame on you. Go read the damned thing and then write to some of your old grade school teachers and ask them why they couldn't have shoehorned just a wee bit of culture in between the "Make a Recycling Poster" assignments and the gala "Columbus was a Genocidal Maniac Day" celebration.)

FIFA, in their infinite wisdom, has announced that they will not allow it due to a rule against national teams wearing ‘any political, religious or commercial messages’.

Which one of the three they believe wearing a poppy in remembrance of Britain's war dead would be they do not specify, but the presumption is that they find it "political" in nature although the difference between that and the ubiquitous black armbands which teams seem to wear whenever a pigeon drops dead on the street someplace escapes explanation.

One highly paid FIFA source, speaking anonymously because he doesn't want people to know what an idiot he is, attempted to justify the decision by asking:

"What would happen if England played Germany around the time of Remembrance Sunday, for example?"

Gee, I don't know. Maybe a football game would break out? One has a hard time imagining a pre kickoff German huddle with rousing speeches about defending the honor of the Third Reich ("Let's win this one for the Afrika Korps!") or England's lads secreting brass knuckles in their socks in order to exact revenge for Dunkirk.

And England fans will still sing "Ten German bombers over London" either way.

There's a growing sentiment that England should go ahead and wear them anyway and dare FIFA to do something about it. Count me firmly in that camp, along with Phil Neville, who Tweeted:

"If we wear the poppies on are shirts Saturday what can FIFA really do- lets stop messing about and do it!"

It's reached the point where, earlier today, a couple of (admittedly fringe, even demented) guys climbed to the top of FIFA's palatial headquarters in Zurich and unfurled a sign expressing their sentiments before Canton of Zug police were summoned to drag them away:

Now I recognize that opinions may vary on this and that's to be expected. The concept that honest men can disagree on principle without being dung-sucking outhouse rats still lives and breathes in this space, if nowhere else these days.

But however you come down on the question of poppies-on-shirts, it's tough to avoid the suspicion that FIFA's decision is based, at least in part, on the fact that right now England is on their shit list, bigtime.

Since before the World Cup vote when two ExCo members were banned from voting for shopping their support, the sniping between Zurich and London has been almost constant. FIFA is corrupt, England is a bunch of sore losers, on and on it's gone.

Of course, England apparently doesn't much mind; their attitude seems to be, basically, that if FIFA wants to try having world football without them they can bloody well go ahead and try. No matter how many times Blatter threatens to take those 4 IAFB seats away and give them to Zimbabwe and Bahrain, England is the one FA on Earth not afraid to observe that the Emperor's new clothes were stolen from a shop window in broad daylight.

So the Brits keep trotting out MP's and guys like Triesman and other assorted functionaries to toss hand grenades at Sepp Blatter's lavish and expansive "I'm Cleaning Up FIFA" extravaganza, wherein FIFA's Grand Poohbah creates committees on top of committees which supervise committees of committees all in the hope that if he creates enough committees that people will think he's actually doing something.

(Here's a hint: as long as all committee reports and proposals are required by statute to go through FIFA's Executive Committee, which might be the most thoroughly corrupted group of people since a bunch of Sicilians got together back 1931 and agreed to carve up New York City, none of it matters.)

In this particular poppies-on-shirts case, for the first time in memory, Sepp is refusing to comment. He says it "doesn't involve him", a ludicrous contention. He's made FIFA his own personal domain and his fingerprints are on everything.

One thing seems obvious though: FIFA is under the gun right now and really doesn't need to be fighting a battle over whether they're disrespectful of The Glorious Dead right now.

For their part, this is a battle that, for once, England simply can't lose either way and they're gleefully poking Blatter in the eye.