Pro Test

After yesterday’s match against Fulham, Paul Pogba and Amad Diallo unfurled a Palestinian flag and paraded it around Old Trafford.

I thought political statements were banned in football?

So sensitive about this were FIFA that the home nations were once punished for displaying a remembrance poppy, which is arguably not a political symbol at all.

The same authorities more recently opened the door for clubs to partake in the knee-taking melodrama and also permitted players to adorn their shirt-backs with the words Black Lives Matter instead of their names.

The only person not questioning that was the South American playmaker, Diego Blacklivesmatta.

And yet it was only a few years back that Pep Guardiola had been fined for donning a yellow ribbon in solidarity with the Catalan independence movement.

A micro-ribbon on his lapel – could anyone in the stadium more than 10ft away have ever even made it out? Presumably, only some pen-pusher in Brussels who had spotted a potential leak in the vast vat that houses collective Euro-hypocrisy.

No such grief for Marcus Rashford and his free school meals campaigning, though. He got an MBE and was praised by the footballing authorities, which can be sharply contrasted with the fate of Arsenal’s Mesut Özil. The Gunners star spoke out against China’s oppression of the Uighurs, and ensuing monster pressure from lobbyists meant that he was summarily sidelined and bombed out.

Still – oppression, torture, and murder versus the odd missed meal – at least they got their priorities right. And of course, everybody was then unhindered in their endless pursuit of mega trade tie-ups with China.

In that mix was predictably the gang in Brussels, who had previously and enthusiastically put paid to Pep’s poxy ribbon but who were straining to sign on the dotted line for some Beijing bunce.

And to top it off at home – in terms of domestic UK politics – nobody had to grasp the troublesome nettle of reminding alcoholics and junkies about the small matter of parental responsibility. That’s the sort of ammo they have to keep out of reach of the do-gooding, centrist, floating vote.

So, what is the test for campaigns to garner a gold star as opposed to a golden shower?

There is a straightforward answer.

Protests that are allowed – even lauded – are the ones where a critical mass of support is already guaranteed.

These are however not protests at all but additional layers of icing on the various cakes of the established order. No feathers will be ruffled, no sponsorship money will be lost, and the path remains clear for all to continue filling their boots.

The only dents these statements make are in the reputation of football and of wider society.

That’s the flag that needs to be paraded around Old Trafford.

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