If Manchester City was an American football team, based in Manchester, New Hampshire, rather than a soccer team in the British north-west, the team’s manager, Pep Guardiola, could expect the bile that US president, Donald Trump, directed at footballers who knelt in protest as America’s anthem was played before games.
“Get that son of a bitch off the field,” was how the leader of the free world responded to a dignified protest on a pressing social issue.
Rather, the Spaniard manages one of England’s premier clubs, which is, in this post-colonial world, owned by Sheikh Mansour. Guardiola’s determination to wear a yellow ribbon in support of jailed Catalan separatists, despite a Football Association threat, proves again that sport and politics are indivisible. The FA says Guardiola is promoting a political cause, but their intervention is tragically ham-fisted and it guarantees publicity far beyond anything that could have been imagined. Guardiola has until March 5 to answer the FA charge, but says that won’t stop his low-key protest. He says he is a “human being before a manager”.
Leaving aside the irony that English soccer has far too often been the rallying point for the very worst, most violent thuggery, racism, and hijacked jingoism, the reaction to one man wearing one ribbon would be laughable, if it was not so sinister, so very Trump. These close-the-debate diktats are no longer acceptable. Guardiola 1, the FA 0.