English FA head Martin Glenn criticized for ′offensive′ Star of David remarks | News | DW | 05.03.2018
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English FA head Martin Glenn criticized for 'offensive' Star of David remarks

Martin Glenn was clarifying his position on political symbols when he managed to offend the Jewish Leadership Council. A symbol that features prominently on Israeli soccer kits is "something we don't want," he said.

The chief executive of England's Football Association was criticized on Monday for equating the Nazi swastika with the Jewish Star of David symbol.

Martin Glenn's gaffe came in the midst of a controversy in which Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola violated a ban on political symbols by wearing a yellow ribbon in support of Catalan separatists.

Read more: The Star of David and Germany's national interest

 In this Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017 file photo, Manchester City coach Josep Guardiola looks on during their Champions League group F soccer match against Shakhtar Donetsk at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Guardiola has been charged with promoting a political message by wearing a pro-separatist Catalan ribbon

‘Highly divisive'

Glenn was defending the FA's position of allowing remembrance poppies while banning other political symbols, saying:

  • "We have rewritten Law 4 of the game so that things like a poppy are OK but things that are going to be highly divisive are not."
  • "That could be strong religious symbols, it could be the Star of David, it could the hammer and sickle, it could be a swastika, anything like (former Zimbabwe President) Robert Mugabe on your shirt — these are the things we don't want."
  • "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 pissed off by it."
  • "All we are doing is even-handedly applying the laws of the game."

Read more: FIFA to lift controversial poppy ban

Jewish response

Simon Johnson, the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council and former director of corporate affairs at the FA criticized Glenn's wording, saying on Twitter: "The Star of David is a Jewish religious symbol of immense importance to Jews worldwide. To put it in the same bracket as the swastika and Robert Mugabe is offensive and inappropriate."

Sports and politics: In a year in which the soccer World Cup is being held in Vladimir Putin's Russia, Glenn's comments have intensified debate as to what extent politics and sport can be mixed. His attempt to absolve sport of playing a political role appears to have backfired.

Israeli visit: Glenn's problematic comments came after Prince William, who is also FA president, announced plans to visit Israel later this year. Israeli players feature the Star of David on their kits and in their stadiums as it appears on the Israeli flag.

Catalonia controversy: Guardiola is a Catalan sporting icon, who transformed Barcelona's soccer team into a dominating force over fours years as manager. Now manager of Manchester City, he has worn the yellow ribbon for months, but was only recently charged by the FA. He has been criticized for campaigning for Catalonia's right to self-determination while ignoring the considerable human rights violations carried out by the United Arab Emirates, whose deputy prime minister bankrolls Manchester City.

Possible fine: Guardiola could face a possible fine at an FA hearing for violating kit and advertising regulations. The date is yet to be set.

aw/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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