Harty on the poppy row with FIFA and Joe Frazier

IT seemed bad enough when the FA wasted all that money on the abortive bid for the World Cup. But, actually, the row with FIFA over whether the England team can have the poppy emblem embroidered on to their shirts for the upcoming friendly game with Spain on Saturday, in my opinion, takes things to a whole new level.

With the World Cup bid, although various people were telling the bidding team what they wanted to hear, regarding voting intentions, ultimately everyone knew that the whole process was flawed and the FA would have been better served keeping out of the bid and spending the money on grassroots football – but the poppy has nothing to do with FIFA whatsoever.

Taking a step back, I cannot really see the issue, other than FIFA being stupidly blinkered in ignoring the strongly-held sentiment over the sacrifices made by our brave troops who fought in two world wars and other conflicts.

Will the Spanish players and officials be offended by the wearing of the poppy?

Any more so than the millions of animal lovers in this country are disgusted by bullfighting?

It’s a friendly game, in our country – a nation steeped in tradition – including that of the annual poppy appeal, why do FIFA have to even get involved?

I think now is the time for strong actions. As much as I love football, some things are more important.

I would go ahead and put the poppies on the shirts. If then the referee decides that the game cannot go ahead, then the memory of all those who gave up their lives is far more significant than 90 minutes of friendly international football.

I know supporters would be left disappointed, but the FA and this country would have made a moral stand long remembered after any football score.

In sport, the words “legend” and “icon” are misused on a regular basis.

What constitutes a legend?

What do you class as an icon?

To my mind, a legend is someone whose name and achievements are synonymous with their chosen sport, someone who is known for what they did right around the globe.

Joe Frazier was one such person, his three epic battles with Muhammad Ali, are written into boxing folklore forever.

With the old adage about only being able to fight what’s in front of you, there is no doubt in my mind that Ali wouldn’t have become the champion and icon he was without having Frazier as his main adversary.

When his trainer Eddie Futch pulled him out of the “Thrilla in Manila” he famously said “stay on your stool son, but no one will ever forget what you did here tonight” (although, ironically, Angelo Dundee was seconds away from doing the same with Ali, so one of the greatest boxing matches ever might have ended up a draw).

Listening and reading the many tributes this week, its clear Futch was right and boxing has lost a true great.