The Last Word: Why poppy farce is turning us into American tub-thumpers

If you want disrespect, look at those boots with a poppy woven into the logo

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The Independent Online

Once all that was required of them was to stand there in silence and some, like John Terry, were simply grateful for the peace. Last night, England took to the Wembley turf knowing rather more was expected. Somehow they had to justify all those introductions already written on those laptops flickering in the press box.

"England did the nation's war heroes proud here last night", or something along those lines.

Where would they stop? Would a stuffing from Spain inspire the reverse? That "England let down the war heroes"? Maybe, because it's the easiest article to write. Pack it with military references, talk about young men willing to sacrifice themselves for the cause and then close it off with a profundity. How about: "They were not worthy." Gotcha.

Still, at least football couldn't be accused of disrespect. That's what the Football Association believe. They took on Fifa and, with the help of the righteous such as David Cameron and Prince William, forced them to compromise in the donning of the poppy. If I was Jérôme Valcke, the general secretary of Fifa, I would have sent back the Prime Minister's plea, with a short note. "Thank you for your correspondence, Mr Cameron. By the way is this the same Mr Cameron presiding over a government which is considering making 16,000 wounded troops redundant?"

The point is that talk is cheap and talk in sport is free. There is nothing wrong in paying our respects to the dead. British sport has been doing so for years, in the quiet and dignified manner of all facets of British life. Only this time around it has been hijacked by the jingoists, the sensationalists and, worse, the politicians.

If you want to lambast disrespect, look no further than those boots with the poppy woven into the logo. If you wish to slam insult, look no further than Cameron and his cohorts and the grotesque hypocrisy. If you seek bemusement, switch on Sky Sports News and watch as they trawl around the training grounds to show how teams stopped running around cones to observe the silence. What next, "Silence of the Day"?

There is a positive – poppy sales will have gone through the roof and for this we can only praise the Royal British Legion. If Remembrance Day is more readily remembered, who are we to argue? But there is a negative. After this, the temptation to attach British sport to the military will be irresistible. Very soon our grounds and stadiums will emulate those of America, with the raising of the union flag and the thumping of the chest.

It's difficult to attend a baseball or gridiron match in which they don't enact some sort of tribute to their boys. No harm. Except that it cheapens war, trivialises death and glamorises the heroism of young men and women losing their lives in horrific circumstances. It does so by association, by placing combat in a sporting setting, in daring to compare the prices of winning and losing. War is not sport and sport is not war, but the links between the two are shamefully blurred. War analogies are so entrenched in sport there is no hope of ridding our irrelevant pursuits of inappropriate images. I read a column about this subject recently which, I kid you not, began with sentence, "Managers should come under fire for making references to war..."

Our children play computer games in which they rack up points for slaughter; surely this is just the sickening way of the modern world. Perhaps, but sport has the responsibilitywhich comes with staging events attended by hot-blooded fans. In the desperation to respect, and not be depicted as uncaring or even traitorous, it is all too easy to disrespect. There is a line of naffness which shouldn't be crossed and for so long Britain has toed it with dignity. We must keep that in mind.

Next month there is a rugby game at Twickenham for Help For Heroes, which will raise substantial funds to provide support for wounded service men and women. Isn't this the Government's job? Of course, but only a fool would criticise such a cause. No, the problem arises when the charity ends, rampant patriotism is set free and all the opportunists hitch a lift to those sumptuous meadows in the moral highlands. We've had a glimpse of that this past week. It hasn'tbeen pretty. Not pretty at all.

Tindall verdict is a right royal joke

Let's face it, if Mike Tindall had married Zara from Weymouth and not Zara from Windsor he would not have been fined £25,000 or thrown out of the England Elite Player Squad. He should have been, but he wouldn't have been.

This is the disgrace of Rob Andrew's inquiry into the off-field antics which summed up the mess of England's World Cup. It did not concentrate on the breakdown of discipline, but on the breakout of bad publicity. That's what happens when executives are trying to protect their own positions. Fall-out first, fairness last.

Was Tindall alone in that Queenstown bar? I recall seeing many photographs of his team-mates with the cast of the "Midget Madness" evening. But Tindall "misled" the England management concerning his presence at another bar. So why didn't the management do something at the time?

Why did Martin Johnson stick up for his fellow World Cup winner? Why did he allow this carry-on? Why was such gross unprofessionalism not only permitted but seemingly encouraged? These questions should have been confronted in this "full and frank" inquiry.

But no, it's easier to point the finger at an individual because he happens to be the husband of the Queen's granddaughter. Tindall was just one of the guilty; not just the one who was guilty. The management should point the spotlight at themselves. And that includes Mr Andrew.

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