The governing bodies seem to be sticking with the experiment for now, and as such we’ll have plenty more opportunities to see what effect it might have at both club and country level. Indeed, although Scotland don’t have a game planned for November, there is one more break coming – albeit mainly in the middle of the week rather than eating up yet another weekend.
Therein lies another issue many have with this current setup. For those that don’t like international weekend it is bad enough that a weekend is wiped out for club duties. But for those – including myself – who still care about country as well as club, the Friday night games mean things are over before the weekend has begun. It’s like the summer when there’s no World Cup or European Championships. What do you do with your weekend when there’s no football?
Some have managed to take solace in the likes of the FA Trophy in England or the ALBA Challenge Cup in Scotland. Watching any football they can possibly find like it’s some kind of drug and they need their fix, no matter how much junk it might contain. Others have no doubt been dragged around shops by their better halves, insisting that this is as good a time as any to replace curtains that probably hadn’t even registered in their consciousness until it was suggested. A lucky few in Ireland might even have got to see a reasonably strong Celtic XI beat Bohemians 4-1.
I managed to sit in front of the TV most of the weekend. For one, it’s playoff time in the Baseball. If the internet has done one thing for my life, it’s broadened my horizons in a way I could never have guessed. Now I can bore people by chatting about sports in two different continents.
I also caught up with a really interesting programme on the History Channel which details the story of the United States. While history was never my strong point at school – mainly because my school insisted on teaching us the boring stuff I didn’t care about like “Egypt”, and most bizarrely “the Sixties” where they never mentioned the European Cup once – I do have a keen interest. After all, the quote “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” is one I see a lot of sense in. Many others would do well to heed the warnings in it. The board at Dundee apparently being made up of them. Well done on entertaining administration for the second time in seven years.
One episode of this series focused on the American Civil War. In particularly, one area they highlighted was the devastating blow that modern construction of weapons combined with age old methods of combat had on the death toll. Basically, the more accurate you make the gun, the further away you can be and still hit them accurately. When they come running at you, as was the traditional way of battle for centuries, you’re picking your target. It’s all the easier when they’ve made the gun easier to reload too.
It reminded me of one of the few lessons of history I actually paid attention to at school – the first World War. Well, okay, it reminded me of what I used to watch in Blackadder Goes Forth. For four long years, the British and the Germans sat in big long trenches in France. Every so often, one of them would think “I know, lets go over the top and run at them” in an effort to move forward in the war. They would inevitably all get shot down and no one would go anywhere. More of your modern equipment meeting old fashioned military tactics. The thing that said it all for me about the First World War was the fact that the Russians got bored with it and decided that instead of fighting the Germans they’d go and have a revolution instead. Although the random game of football that broke out at Christmas in 1914 is another fantastic example of just how bizarre this war was. Here were guys ordered to shoot each other thinking “nah, I’d rather nutmeg him and chip his mate”.
Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, the First World War is one of the single dumbest times in the course of human history. War in itself is generally dumb, but this one really took the biscuit. Admittedly, my take on the war is overly simplified, but it does serve a purpose, which I’m getting to – thanks for sticking with me this far.
In those trenches, everyone knew the orders to go “over the top” were stupid. But there was nothing they could do about it. You either went over the top and got shot by your opposition, or you didn’t. If you didn’t, you were a deserter. What happened to deserters? Well, they got shot by their own side. Not much of a choice really, is it? A no-win scenario if ever I’ve heard one. Inevitably most went over the top. Better to be shot by the enemy than possibly make a friend of yours have to make that choice.
Fast forward to present day. Come November it will have been 92 years since the First World War came to an end. Where those trenches of stupidity were, poppies now grow. Those poppies form the inspiration for the yearly remembrance Sunday fundraising by the Royal British Legion, or by the Earl Haig Fund Scotland depending on which side of the border you’re on. It’s the Early Haig Fund Scotland – now trading as poppyscotland – that have been enlisting the help of the SPL to promote themselves.
This of course has sparked off a whole big debate as to whether football clubs should be involved at all. Some say it’s political, some question where the money is going, others question the motives of those involved. A valid debate it has to be said. I’m not getting into the debate of the poppy itself though, you can find better arguments for and against it on most Celtic messageboards than I could put up here. I’m not sure I’ve convinced myself either way to be perfectly honest.
The main problem I have with it is the fact that in recent years the poppy seems to have taken on a life of it’s own. Indeed, poppyscotland themselves say that the SPL only got involved in 2008. Why not before? What changed? I certainly don’t remember there being a huge debate over the poppy when I was at school and university. It was merely there and you took part if you wished. Now it seems as if it’s forced down our throats. If you don’t wear a poppy you somehow don’t respect those that lost their lives. Nonsense of course, but that seems to be the way it’s portrayed now.
So now Celtic find themselves in that no-win scenario. Tell the SPL and poppyscotland where to go and the Scottish Media go into a frenzy of negative press about how Celtic don’t care about those who died, have shown no respect and so on and so forth. Go along with the SPL and the poppyscotland appeal and have the Celtic fans themselves shoot you down. Sounds like history repeating itself – albeit no one is dying this time.
There was one way out of it in my opinion. One that would both keep the Celtic fans on board and allow the club to point that they do respect those killed during all these wars. The white poppy. It’s not as widely known, and that’s a shame. With the white poppy it’s nothing to do with the military and everything to do with peace. Encouraging people that such stupidity as happened in the First World War, as well as other wars, can be avoided in the future through other means. Need any more convincing? Well in 1986, the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher apparently expressed here “deep distaste” for the symbol of the white poppy. Good enough for me.
Sadly though Celtic have been caught napping once again. Well, I say caught napping. We know several conversations with Celtic fan groups took place around this issue, so it’s not as if Celtic didn’t know this was going to come up again this year. But no, once more Celtic are going to placate to the media, the SPL and all others. Next month the Celtic jersey will once more have the red poppy, like that will somehow avoid the negative press. So much for learning from history. It appears that Celtic would rather take the bullet from their friends than their enemies.
When all this comes to a head next month we might just be longing for the nice quiet days of an international break.