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A moment of shame

Posted by Richard Friday, July 08, 2011


Of course, you say, our football teams would not tolerate the ring of stars being imposed on them, except that British Ryder club players are quite happy to be called "Europeans" and seem unfazed by the plethora of EU stars everywhere in camera-shot.

However, there is a less happy precedent when, in Berlin on 14 May 1938, England played Germany at football, winning by 6-3. Controversially, after the match, the team rendered a Nazi salute to the crowd. Given a football culture "colonized by the politics of appeasement", the British FA, acceding to wishes from the Foreign Office, had directed the players to salute the crowd. England might have won, but Germany gained a propaganda victory.

A contemporary reporter (see right – click to enlarge, and then click again) wrote of his "lasting impression" of the match, of eleven English professional footballers lined up in the centre of the field giving the Nazi salute as the band strikes up Deutschland uber Alles and the Horst Wessel. The report continued:
They were not happy about it. And they are not happy about it now. Hapgood, the captain, looks along the line. There is a shuffle, and orders being orders, hands are raised. They are lowered as one anthem finishes (I detect relief) and raised again with some diffidence.

There was a good deal of talk about It among the players before the game, and there has been a good deal since. There was no unanimity about the decision of the committee in charge that the salute should be given. Hapgood, the captain, thought standing to attention, as all British teams do on the Continent, should have been sufficient.

Another member of the team told me; "I know that when my father sees a picture of me giving the salute, he won't be too pleased."
One can record, though, that national pride was partially salvaged by the Aston Villa team, which was also playing in Germany (see report, left - click to enlarge, and click again).

The day following the England team humiliation, the Aston Villa players were booed off the field by 110,000 people at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, after they had defeated a German eleven, (ten of them were ex-Austrian internationals) by, three goals to two – and then refused to give the Nazi salute.

Jimmy Hogan, the Aston Villa manager said that the team were not anxious to give the Nazi salute but had yielded to the "suggestion" of the Football Association to do so. But the decision not to salute on the field had been spontaneous and entirely due to the bad feeling created during the game.

Needless to say, the Football Association officials who watched the game were not supportive. Their view was that all the "good work" of the previous day, when England had defeated Germany 6-3 in a friendly atmosphere, "had been completely destroyed".

Nothing changes, it seems, with the elites always just too keen to abandon national pride, all in the interests of some notional "good will", only to have the people in the front line left to pick up the pieces.  Appeasement always comes from the top.

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