Howler is a magazine about soccer. Made in the USA. Four times a year. For a global audience. Issue 10 contains 112 pages of feature writing, profiles, essay, humor, and, of course, plenty of original illustrations and photography.
One of football’s greatest mysteries finally explained!
Here on Dirty Tackle, we had a long-running joke about Leo Messi’s childlike qualities. We attributed him with a love of Lego playsets and an innocence that seemed to fit both his personality and style of play. Now, Messi himself has revealed that, in reality, at least one thing about him was very childlike: his diet.
Finally explaining why he vomited during matches so many times over the years, Messi now attributes it to eating too much junk food. From ESPN FC:
“I ate badly for many years: chocolates, fizzy drinks, and everything,” Messi told La Cornisa TV. “That is what made me throw up during games. Now I look after myself better. I eat fish, meat, salads. Everything is organised and taken care of.”
Leo Messi having to be told that he can’t have pre-match meals of chocolate bars and Pepsi makes sense—far more so than his explanation for the vomiting in 2014, when he claimed “Sometimes I accelerate very fast and the change in air intake that involves causes me to heave.”
There are three scenarios for goalkeepers when they enter preseason. Most often, there is a clear No. 1—Nick Rimando at Real Salt Lake, Luis Robles with the New York Red Bulls, Tim Melia at Sporting KC, etc.—and the other goalkeepers in preseason camp fight for the backup spot. Sometimes even the backup spot is already claimed. The other goalkeepers in camp are fighting to just make the team, or there is a young goalkeeper who accepts his role as third string and is biding his time.
Every now and then, however, there’s an open race. The head coach hasn’t made up his mind on who the starting goalkeeper will be, and he waits to see who performs the best. For better or worse, despite what the coach says, it’s tough to tell when these moments truly come along. Coaches often say that “it’s an open battle” and that the position is up for grabs, but usually this is done to keep everyone happy and motivated. It’s more talk than truth. It’s rare when the open race actually happens. Clearly Friedel wasn’t trying to pay anyone lip service.
Competition among the goalkeepers in preseason is one of the weirder things I’ve experienced in my own career. Field players have the luxury of being able to fit into different positions, and if you are in form you will play. That is why you can see two field players who compete for the same position become best friends. In my experience, though, this is a rare occurrence for goalkeepers.
A goalkeeper only has one spot up for grabs in preseason. If you go out there and try and help the guys with whom you’re competing get better, you’re hurting your own chances of getting the job. In goalkeeper specific training, you silently want the other person to mess up. Maybe not mess up, but you want them to be sloppy, just enough so it’s clear that you are better. It pains me saying it aloud, but, deep down, I think it’s something most goalkeepers are familiar with.
For me, the storied “goalkeepers union” you often hear about only exists when you are on the opposite sides of the pitch. You have a camaraderie and compassion for the guy on the other side because you know the work that they have put in and how difficult it is to be a goalkeeper. But I have a hard time believing in the “union” within your own team. If I directly had a hand in helping a guy I was competing with take my job, I’m going to feel sick to my stomach. I believe in being a good teammate, being respectful, and professional but that is where I draw the line. I’ll admit, some goalkeepers out there might be better people than me and disagree, but I’ve never been in a scenario where I felt true kinship on my own team. It’s all a really strange balance of fighting for a spot but being a good teammate.
We can talk all we want about preseason competition, but it’s a different experience entirely to get your first start. If Turner was anything like me, I’m sure his stomach was in knots before the game. How do you deal with the nerves that come as you are about to embark on the one thing you have been working your whole life to achieve? I’ll be honest, before my first match I puked my guts out in the toilet. I couldn’t help it. Your body does funny things when adrenaline is pumping through your veins. I’ve never believed guys who say they don’t get nervous. Nerves are the body’s natural reaction to fight or flight and knowing that you have something to lose. If you aren’t getting nervous before games, then what you are doing doesn’t mean that much to you.
With that said, when that whistle blows at the start of the game a funny thing happens and that all changes. Those nerves disappear. Your body knows its time to perform. If you’ve done everything you can to be prepared for the match, then you will be fine. The more experience you get, the better you get at dealing with this. It’s no surprise to me that in week two of this MLS season, we saw a more confident and in command Matt Turner. This was highlighted by his impassioned penalty save in the 54th minute against Colorado’s Jack Price.
In penalty situations, energy and confidence play a big role as it’s partly a psychological battle. If you as a goalkeeper can raise a moment of doubt in the striker’s head before he shoots, that can be just enough to turn the odds in your favor. Turner stood tall, puffed out his chest, and gathered all the information he could from Jack Price as he awaited the penalty.
He had taken full advantage of the opportunity he was given to compete in preseason, this was his “Welcome to MLS” moment.
The death of Davide Astori brought pause to an ongoing dispute between fans and owners at Fiorentina
The storied city of Florence has only ever had one professional soccer club. Having won two Scudetti and six Coppa Italia titles, Fiorentina, is among the better known clubs on the Italian peninsula.
A golden era during the 1990s under the ownership of the Cecchi Gori family eventually came to a sputtering halt at the beginning of the new century. After being forced to sell star players Gabriel Batistuta, Rui Costa, Francesco Toldo and others, the club declared bankruptcy in the summer of 2002 and Associazione Calcio Fiorentina officially ceased to exist.
“When we were relegated to Serie C2 it was not pleasant, but we have to thank those who allowed us to go back to Serie A,” said Monica Bartoli, a lifelong Florence resident. “If nobody bought the società, we would have disappeared.”
Luckily, Andrea and Diego Della Valle created a new club, Florentia Viola, which was allowed an exceptional registration into Serie C2, Italy’s fourth division. Building an entirely new team from scratch is never easy. With a roster including Angelo Di Livio, Alessandro Diamanti and Fabio Quagliarella, Florentia Viola successfully won Group B in Serie C2.
In May 2003, the Della Valle ownership group acquired the rights to the brand for €2.5 million, renaming the club ACF Fiorentina.
While the club was set to be promoted to Serie C1, the Italian Football Federation announced that Serie B would be expanded from 20 to 24 teams beginning in the 2003-2004 season. Since Calabrian club Cosenza was not able to fulfill the financial requirements for Serie B, Fiorentina were granted a spot in the second division due to “sporting merits.”
Having reached the promotion playoff, over 40,000 fans were at the Stadio Artemio Franchi to witness Fiorentina clinch qualification to Serie A. In under two years, Fiorentina recovered from bankruptcy and playing in the fourth division to return to Italy’s top division.
The club gradually regained their stature under coach Cesare Prandelli, finishing fourth in the 2005-06 season, but the club was striped of their Champions League berth as a result of the Calciopoli scandal. Nonetheless, Fiorentina did manage back-to-back fourth place finishes in the 2007-08 and 2008-09 campaigns, earning qualification to the Champions League on both occasions.
Fourth-place finishes continued in each of the three seasons under the guidance of new coach Vincenzo Montella. Another common occurrence for the Viola was the departure of key players each summer: Matija Nastasic to Manchester City in 2012, Adem Ljajic to Roma and Stevan Jovetic to Man City in 2013, Juan Cuadrado to Chelsea in 2014, Stefan Savic to Atletico Madrid in 2015, and Marcos Alonso to Chelsea in 2016. Then this past summer not only did the club sell the midfield duo of Borja Valero and Matias Vecino to Inter but also their top attacking talents. Josip Ilicic joined Atalanta while Nikola Kalinic moved to AC Milan. Above all, homegrown starlet Federico Bernardeschi was sold to bitter rivals Juventus. The Della Valle group seemed content to just cash in on big deals, never making serious efforts to keep their star players with improved contracts. Not only were most of these profits merely invested in bargain deals, but two of the three most expensive signings of the Della Valle era, Mario Gomez and Mario Suarez, were complete busts.
The passionate Florentine fans were understandably not too pleased with the fact that half of their starting lineup was sold in just the span of a few weeks. Fans congregated outside Borja Valero’s house begging him to not leave the club but they took a more hostile approach to Bernardeschi’s departure.
“You split the city with your lies. Now you’ll end up cashing your millions & being strung up by your balls” Fiorentina fans to Bernardeschi pic.twitter.com/lOS7jQiZFt
Following a build-up of years of frustration amongst the fanbase, the club released a statement on June 26, 2017, stating: “The ownership of ACF Fiorentina announces that it is absolutely willing, given the dissatisfaction on the part of the fans, to stand aside and put the club up for sale to those who want to buy it. The society is willing to receive concrete offers, obviously only from those who really want the Viola jersey and have the seriousness and solidity necessary to guide a challenging club like Fiorentina.”
It seemed that after years of confrontation with the fans, the Della Valle brothers were finally ready to step aside and sell the club. Yet, oddly enough, there hasn’t been a single word about the status of the club’s ownership since that statement was released nine months ago. Despite the silence from the owners, tensions had not ceased. Back in October, in a victory over Udinese, the ultras in the Curva Fiesole chanted “Della Valle vattene!” (Delle Valle go away!)
After a miserable 4-1 loss to 19th-place Hellas Verona, fans protested outside the Stadio Artemio Franchi to voice their discontent with the current state of the club. Fans were then barred from bringing flags and banners into the stadium for the next home match, which was against rivals Juventus, for fear that anti-Della Valle sentiments would be on display.
“I think the protests after the defeat to Hellas show that the fans—who are willing to be patient with such a young side—have had enough of the owners,” says Chloe Beresford, an ardent Fiorentina supporter who contributes to The Sportsman. “The fact that the Della Valles have done nothing since shows they don’t care what the fans think as they continue to keep their distance.”
After a large squad overhaul and appointment of a new coach, Stefano Pioli, Fiorentina have shown signs of both promise and despair this season. Currently sitting in 9th place on 38 points, the club looks headed for a lackluster mid-table finish.
“In Florence, we are not very objective but, above all, we cannot feel betrayed. So, the Della Valles had our total support when they invested in the team to help it grow,” Ms. Bartoli said, recalling better times. “But as soon as they started to sell players who matured here only for economic interests, then the fans felt taken for a ride, as the owners showed they didn’t want a great team, just to manage it solely like a business investment. So I think the relationship [between the fans and owners] is now broken and the latest sales [of players] have only worsened the situation.”
The Della Valle brothers only just attended their first match of the season following the tragic death of club captain, Davide Astori. Presumably, the friction will be put aside for the remainder of the season but the underlying problems will remain.
As NYCFC captain David Villa marked his 100th appearance for the club with a goal in their 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy, another local legend was honored by the club: The pigeon that was murdered by LA Galaxy players during pre-match warm-ups in 2016.
The pigeon was hanging out on the pitch at Yankee Stadium, minding his own business, as the Galaxy players passed a ball back and forth around it. The ball and the players got closer and closer to the pigeon in an apparent attempt to scare it away, but the pigeon would not be intimidated. Then, the ball got too close to the bird and it met a cruel end.
LA galaxy animal abuse (GRAPHIC) - YouTube
On the Galaxy’s return to New York two years later, NYCFC honored the pigeon by affixing a likeness of it to a pole behind one of the goals.
And the pigeon spirit must have been pleased with this tribute, because NYCFC not only came away with the victory in their home opener, but one of the Galaxy players involved in the attack on the pigeon, Ashley Cole, was shown a red card in the 85th minute. Never mess with a New York pigeon.
Anger and violence have been regrettably and horrifically intertwined with football for generations now, but this past weekend illustrated just how widespread and varied it manifests these days.
First, something that might be a first: PAOK owner Ivan Savvides—a former member of Russian parliament—bringing a gun to a pitch invasion as he confronted the referee after a disallowed goal in a Superleague Greece match against AEK Athens. This was so bananas that the entire league has suspended play indefinitely while they try and figure out what the hell is going on.
Meanwhile in Greece… PAOK president Ivan Savvidis takes to the pitch, armed with a gun, to remonstrate with the ref after his team had a late goal disallowed. pic.twitter.com/Vg8SjtWqY1
Savvides didn’t draw the gun and Reuters reports that he was licensed to carry it, but this still had to be a terrifying sight for the referee. In the midst of a full-blown pitch invasion, you have the pissed-off owner of the club you just took a goal away from coming at you like John Wayne and flanked by bodyguards. That’s a nightmare most referees didn’t even know they could have.
But one reason Savvides might have felt the need to bring a gun to the stadium played out in London, where West Ham supporters had a pitch invasion of their own, and while this was going on, threw coins at one of the hated owners of the club, David Sullivan.
West Ham co-owner David Sullivan was hit in the face by a coin yesterday. About 30 coins were thrown at him, including £2 coins. West Ham co-owner David Gold in tears after the game. Only good thing that came out of yesterday was cleaners earned "nice bonus" from all coins thrown
In Lille, the fans’ target was their own players. They invaded the pitch to kick and punch their own team and THEY DIDN’T EVEN LOSE! It was a 1-1 draw with Montpellier. Granted, the result wasn’t enough to get them out of the relegation zone, but still no excuse to physically attack the players.
Last night, Lille fans attacked their own players during a pitch invasion after the relegation-threatened club drew to Montpellier. pic.twitter.com/KPCiRrt6nH
Finally, an incident that didn’t involve a pitch invasion: Following Man United’s 2-1 win against Liverpool, a Man United supporter decided to heckle former Liverpool defender and current Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher as they both drove cars. This prompted Carragher to roll down his window and hock a tsunami of saliva into the car of his heckler, coating the man’s 14-year-old daughter. Again, Carragher did this while driving, so it was not only disgusting, but, above all, dangerous.
Carragher went on to apologize to the family and on television. This is what football has come to, though. The players get beat up by their own fans, the owners are confronting referees with guns and getting coins thrown at their heads, and on the way home the fans heckle the pundits, who then spit on their kids.
At some point people are going to realize the game isn’t worth all this. Hopefully.
A boisterous farewell to a beloved footballer and symbol of the club
The shocking death of 31-year-old Fiorentina captain Davide Astori has prompted tributes from around the world in recent days, but the people of Florence saved the grandest farewell for last.
At the conclusion of Astori’s funeral, his casket was carried out to the steps of the Basilica Santa Croce as an estimated 10,000 supporters sang and cheered for their captain one last time. They waved flags and filled the piazza with purple smoke and the sounds of their appreciation for Astori.
Representatives of every Serie A club were present at the funeral, including members of Juventus, who traveled from their Champions League match in London for the occasion. The Fiorentina supporters applauded their presence.
“Florence’s city government declared Thursday a day of mourning, with schools and businesses asked to observe one minute’s silence at 12:00 GMT,” reports the BBC, but if the size of the crowd in the Piazza Santa Croce is any indication, everyone in town was there chanting “There’s only one captain”—a chant that will continue to reverberate around the Stadio Artemio Franchi, keeping Astori’s memory alive for years to come.
What it feels like to be in the dressing room when the chairman storms in, fires your manager and resets everything
Lindevi IP, Lindome’s home ground (Jared Odenbeck)
Rain pattered against the roof over the main stand as the floodlights burst through the ink black sky to saturate the pitch. A legion of boots clacked against the concrete and thumped upon the artificial turf walkway that leads back into the dressing room before the worn, wooden clubhouse door screeched open.
It was just another night in the dressing room after training for Lindome GIF. Until it wasn’t.
Suddenly, the door slammed. The club chairman strode resolutely into the dressing room as everyone sat in their towels, fresh from post-training showers, or threw darts erratically at the dartboard. He stood firm and tall, his thumbs tucked into his tool belt that wrapped around his cargo shorts. The construction company owner by day boasted an ever-present snus that hung out of the corner of his mouth as he barked at the team in Swedish with a fury of gestures.
The season had started well for the club, albeit before I got there, as they shot to fourth place—a couple good results back from the promotion places—entering the second half of the season. Since my arrival in July, however, things had gone poorly, as we promptly lost five games on the bounce and plummeted down the table.
On the night of the chairman’s surprise appearance, despite coming on the heels of an unexplainable 2-0 away loss to then-bottom Höganäs, training had followed a standard course. There was 5-v-2 and some banter, a passing pattern, a possession-based drill, and some small-sided play. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Sure, our results had been woeful and quite frankly painful to experience, but my career never lent me the experience of a relegation battle, nor the consequences that often accompany it. In America, coaches come and go. Sometimes clubs sack them. Sometimes they mutually part ways. An owner rarely intervenes smack in the middle of the season because, well, there is always next year. In the reality of promotion and relegation, however, time waits for no one, especially not next season.
I looked around and attempted to read body language, but everyone sat expressionless and as cold as the black-and-white tiled walls that locked us in that moment. It looked like a principal ripping into a group of middle school delinquents. I leaned over to Viggo Alexandersson, the 19-year old tricky winger (with a 10-year old’s face) who sat next to me, and quietly asked him what on earth was going on. He explained with a whisper, as his eyes darted frantically back and forth between the owner and myself, that the owner just sacked our manager and “expected the group to prove that he made the correct decision.”
Our now-former head coach stood helpless in the corner and looked on silently. In that moment, I genuinely felt for him. He coached with clear and apparent passion for the game and the club. Sure, we were piss-poor from a results standpoint in the past last five games, but our possession-dominating performances deserved more. Lindome had offered him his first head coaching job at the professional level, and he lasted merely four months at the helm. The board afforded him no mercy whatsoever. In almost every situation where a coach’s job rests fragile and vulnerable on the chopping block, I believe that players deserve some amount of blame. Yet, none came our way that night. The door slammed. That was that.
When we arrived to training the next day, the dressing room was heavy with expectation and the weight of the unknown. For so long, many of the players knew exactly what to expect from training: what corners they could cut, how little effort they put in to post-training runs, what the boss required of them, and whether or not he all-but-guaranteed them a spot in the starting 11 every week. After dropping all three points for a few games on the bounce, despite our performances, players started to lose inspiration in training. Shoulders slumped. Fingers pointed. The buck was passed. Every day felt like a drag. I couldn’t tell you which came first, the chicken or the egg, but they undoubtedly happened together. Aside from the enjoyment I felt in our possession-based, risk-everything style, I wondered if I had walked into a nightmare. When I left Charlotte, I hoped to advance my career through promotion into the third tier with Lindome, not plummet into the further obscurity of the fifth.
Everything felt fresh in the moments that proceeded our next training session the day after the chairman’s rant. A dose of jolting drama flooded that same dressing room where the assistant coach took the reigns just 24 hours prior. Immediately, we tinkered with formations, 3-6-1, 3-5-2, and 3-4-3 replacing the humdrum nature of the 4-3-3 that we strictly adhered to previously. New tactics and new opportunities bore a newfound intensity and commitment, which replaced the steadiness that had characterized my first month of training. Players who once had no chance of getting a game under the old manager were filled with renewed sense of hope and optimism. Those who once strolled through sessions now felt the pressure of uncertainty over their place in the starting 11. Late tackles flew in. Arguments boiled over into pushing and shoving and training ground rows. Balls were punted after losses in small-sided games. No one mentions these kinds of things in the dressing room, but we all felt it tangibly—the club was alive again.
I find it slightly sad that a club and group of players wait for a manager’s dismissal before they ramp up their effort and commitment time and time again across the world of football. Coaches are real people with real jobs, but players never feel guilt over a sacked manager. At the end of the day, in that moment of change a footballer either slumps in harrowing fear over a potential drop in playing time or leaps with hopeful expectation for a new chance. Football is about winning—always has been, always will be—and win we did under new management. Would we have righted the ship under our old manager? Perhaps, but we will never know.
As a young player, I championed pro/rel football from within the safety net of the American college soccer system, but I never appreciated nor understood the genuinely triumphant joys and heart-wrenching losses that it produces year after year. Sure, it sucks to lose in the NCAA tournament, but there’s always next year when you have a locked-in, four-year scholarship deal. In the rest of the world, the players decide the price they pay every day, both for the sake of their own careers and the longevity and trajectory of their club. If you want to make it, you better be ready to pay up. That is how the world works, and that is what the world of professional football demands.
“To be honest, and to be very clear, Pep Guardiola’s yellow ribbon is a political symbol, it’s a symbol of Catalan independence, and I can tell you there are many more Spaniards, non-Catalans, who are (expletive) off by it,” Glenn told reporters after an IFAB meeting.
“All we are doing is even-handedly applying the laws of the game. Poppies are not political symbols. That yellow ribbon is. Where do you draw the line?”
“We have re-written Law 4 of the game so that things like a poppy are OK,” Glenn said. “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 be the hammer and sickle, it could be a swastika, anything like (Zimbabwe’s former president) Robert Mugabe on your shirt, these are the things we don’t want.”
Glenn subsequently apologized. That is what one does after clumsily putting the Star of David and swastika on equal footing in a sentence to prove…oh, why bother?
This latest gaffe showcases Glenn’s preternatural ability to draw attention to idiocy that might otherwise have escaped notice while obscuring the precise nature of said idiocy with wild rhetorical flailing. The proximate issue is the FA’s decision to charge Pep Guardiola with violating its prohibition on political symbols by wearing a yellow ribbon in support of jailed and exiled Catalan politicians. The charge, which is weeks old and follows months of warnings, was always incoherent. Somehow the FA’s role in this mess went largely uncriticized until Glenn’s latest bout of ill-considered logorrhoea.
This, apparently, is the point where Qatar and Abu Dhabi have to be discussed. Pep Guardiola, as you may have heard, promoted the former’s World Cup bid and is now bankrolled by the latter’s riches. He also ignored French footballer Zahir Belounis’ desperate plea for help escaping Qatar. In the weeks since the FA’s charge was announced, these moral failings have dominated the discourse. How, outraged pundit after outraged pundit asked, could Pep Guardiola care about political freedoms close to home but not further afield? Football Weekly devoted two episodes to one-upmanship on this front culminating in a strange invocation of all the plaudits such moral courage had received. All this self-congratulatory anger left two questions largely unaddressed: What if Guardiola has a point? What if the FA charge doesn’t really make sense?
Pep Guardiola’s critics are not wrong in noting that he’s a self-serving hypocrite. That was the case long before he started wearing the yellow ribbon. Mind you, most people, especially in football, are hypocrites who have an easier time shrugging off abuses in faraway places. It is fair enough to note that repeated dalliances with vile regimes lessen his political authority, but the focus on Abu Dhabi and Qatar has gone further than that. It has given cover to a Football Association that, among other things, has been happy to let an arm of the UAE own and operate a club. In that context, it’s at least worth noting that Guardiola’s point about the Spanish government’s treatment of Catalan leaders is not implausible. The jailing of political opponents and dissidents is ill advised, both in this case and as a general principle.Yet football punditry’s penchant for moral absolutism has led us to a place where Qatar’s handling of political dissent is bad and Spain’s lesser-yet-real failings don’t exist.
The focus on Qatar and Abu Dhabi was nevertheless a boon for a Football Association that has long struggled to clearly describe its stance on political symbolism. (It is also, as Alanis Morissette would say, a little too ironic seeing as this focus on Qatar has helped the English FA…which just last month agreed to a partnership with Qatar.) Specifically, the FA would like you to know that the poppy is not a political symbol. Nothing to see here. Move on folks. Never mind that the poppy has, in some contexts, been understood and adopted as a symbol of British nationalism. Never mind that the FA was fined by FIFA for putting the poppy on its kits in contravention of a ban on political symbols. Never mind that the same FA vowed to flout FIFA’s policy on political symbols and take the issue to the court of arbitration of sport. No, there is nothing to see here.
Don't Mention the War! - Fawlty Towers - BBC - YouTube
Enter Martin Glenn, who approached the question of political symbolism with all the delicacy of Basil Fawlty shouting “Don’t mention the war!” While the poppy had been the obvious subtext to the yellow ribbon episode, it took Glenn’s tin ear for politics to foist it into the foreground. His point that “Poppies are not political symbols. That yellow ribbon is” exposed the fundamental flimsiness of the FA’s position, which amounts to little more than because we say so. Of course lots of groups say their symbols exist above the fray of politics, Martin. That’s how this game works. Good luck adjudicating all these claims of neutrality and symbolism. This is not a Potter Stewart scenario where anyone can recognize a political symbol at first glance.
The example of the Star of David is instructive here, albeit not at all in the way Glenn expressed it. Like virtually every symbol it contains multitudes. It is, most obviously, the central symbol on Israel’s flag. That use is political insofar as the nation state is always political. It is, however, hard to imagine that Martin Glenn opposing all national symbols—if so, he should reconsider England’s kits and international football more broadly. Maybe he was thinking of the Star of David as a symbol of particular political parties and ideas, which is yet another meaning. But for some, the Star of David also serves as a religious or cultural symbol independent of any party or national affiliation. It has also been used as a decorative pattern in contexts that have nothing to do with Judaism. This multiplicity of meanings is true of most symbols, but Martin Glenn’s FA would like you to accept its singular readings of the poppy and yellow ribbon.
An actual ban on political symbols necessarily requires the prohibition of symbols that are widely accepted or that also have non-political meanings. Glenn’s clumsy statement tried to elide the distinction between the political and the “highly divisive,” but those are different concepts. A blanket ban on political symbols is difficult to enact precisely because it requires banning images that are quite popular. Anything else is just a ban on symbols with which an organization is not comfortable. Anything else is just an effort to ensure that the product on display does not risk blowback from sponsors or, to a lesser degree, the public. The Football Association’s policy has long fallen into the latter category while presenting as something more high-minded.
Insofar as Pep Guardiola’s worldview is self-serving and hypocritical, as we have so often and correctly been reminded, so too is that of the Football Association. It should not have taken Martin Glenn’s latest display of ineptitude for this to become obvious.