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FIFA get stroppy about the poppy

The visit of the world and European champions to Wembley should be enough to ensure a sense of occasion. England’s friendly against Spain though is in danger of being overshadowed by an embarrassing row about poppies.

FIFA has banned England from wearing poppies on their shirts as a Remembrance Day gesture, decreeing that it infringes the governing body’s rules outlawing political or religious symbols. A letter from the sports minister Hugh Robertson has failed to sway FIFA’s ruling.

The Swiss-based governing body says that wearing poppies would "jeopardise football’s neutrality." The referee is under instructions to abandon the match if England’s players defy the ban, which would be a major embarrassment to say the least.

The likelihood is that England will attempt to get around the ruling by putting poppies on the tracksuits for the national anthems, wearing black armbands during the match, and having a poppy motif on permanent display on the Wembley scoreboard.

England players were unimpressed by FIFA’s decision. Jack Wilshere, who is injured at present and misses the match, tweeted: "England team should wear poppies on Saturday. It’s the nation’s tradition and it would be disrespectful not to." He followed up with the tweet: "My great granddad fought for this country in WW2 and I'm sure a lot of people's grandparents did so."

The row is the latest symptom of the considerable mutual hostility that exists between FIFA and the English FA, stemming from England’s futile bid to stage the World Cup, and fuelled by the English media’s persistent exposure of alleged FIFA corruption.

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