Making A Statement: Should Guardiola’s Yellow Ribbon Be A Problem?

Pep Guardiola, the manager that can do no wrong this season; leading the Citizens to a Premier League title at a canter, showing how you can be successful and play champagne football at the same time.

There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Manchester City under Guardiola this season; the media, for once, are quite literally lost for words.

So, the best way it seems to criticise the City boss in public is to attack him on his politics. The FA have recently fined the 47-year-old for refusing to remove the yellow ribbon which he’s wearing in support for the political prisoners who are trying to free Catalonia from Spain.

“Before a manager, I’m a human a person, everyone in England knows what it means, you did the Brexit, you allowed Scotland to make a referendum and the people voted.

That’s what these guys asked and they are in jail – 145 days – everyone is innocent until the judge proves you are guilty, they are there.”

— Pep Guardiola

The Citizens boss has until Monday evening to respond to the fine but does not look like budging on the matter.

The former Barcelona manager has such an affiliation to the political movement that it seems unlikely he will remove the ribbon; in 2014, Guardiola even stood as a candidate for the pro-independence movement, Junts Pel Si, as well as having his house searched twice by the Spanish police looking for the removed Catalonian leader, Carles Puigdemont.

The seriousness and passion Guardiola, therefore, has for the movement does not look like dwindling overnight should the FA choose to punish Guardiola further.

People in Barcelona demanding independence for Catalonia at a rally – Image Source:

Who Believes Guardiola Shouldn’t Wear The Ribbon?

Guardiola’s adamance on wearing the symbol has primarily been met with criticism by FA Chairman, Martin Glenn.

Glenn’s problem with the City manager’s message is that it is using football as a platform to express a political message; Glenn maintains that the sport has no place to promote or degrade a political movement through the popularity of football:

“We don’t want political symbols in football. You can’t have, and we don’t want, football equipment to display political symbols,

‘To be very clear, his yellow ribbon is a political symbol, it’s a symbol of Catalan independence… there are many more Spaniards, non-Catalans who are upset by it.”

— Martin Glenn, FA Chief Executive

Glenn continues to highlight how allowing such a symbol creates a subjective law on what sort of symbol is ok to wear in the sport.

The FA have recently re-written the laws to allow symbols such as the poppy, but Glenn stresses how the Catalonian symbol is more in line with a political movement which could open the door to other ideologies:

“Poppies are not political symbols; that yellow ribbon is. Where do you draw the line, should we have someone with a Ukip badge? Someone with an Isis badge? That’s why you have to be pretty tough that local, regional, national party organisations cannot use football shirts to represent them.”

— Martin Glenn, FA Chief Executive

Who Is In Support Of The Ribbon?

Football is not exactly a sport renowned for making political statements; football fans themselves are more categorised into a certain type of stereotype which fits the model of ‘out of touch politically’, and oblivious to such movements going on around the world.

Simon Kelner, from the I Paper, argues that Guardiola’s adamance to support the ribbon is breaking the usual mold in the sport and bringing an awareness and debating point to fans which perhaps is not regularly discussed:

“Amid the bling and the Bentleys, surely there is room for the occasional statement which identifies that there is a world beyond football, a world where there really is injustice and inequality.”

— Simon Kelner, The I Paper

The message is good for the reputation of football, and Kelner continues to argue how Guardiola’s strong ties to the movement show how it’s a genuine symbol rather than one built on tenuous links to portray a political movement:

“He may be the most successful and charismatic football manager in Britain, but he is also a rounded, socially aware and political active character with earnestly-held views. There are precious few such figures in football.”

— Simon Kelner, The I Paper

Whether or not you believe Guardiola’s message is right or wrong, the Citizens boss has managed to bring a talking point to the world of football that perhaps wouldn’t have been so prominent had Pep stopped wearing the ribbon.

It’s a strong political message and one that carries great significance to the future of Spain, what will happen to the relationship between the FA and Guardiola remains to be seen.


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