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5 Nov, 2018 16:52

'For me it's only a reminder of an attack': Man United’s Matic defends decision to not wear poppy

'For me it's only a reminder of an attack': Man United’s Matic defends decision to not wear poppy

Nemanja Matic has defended his decision not to wear a poppy on his jersey during the Manchester derby on Remembrance Sunday this weekend, saying that it serves as a reminder of attacks he experienced growing up in war-torn Serbia.

The Serbian international was the only Manchester United player to not wear a poppy on his jersey during his club’s 2-1 victory at Bournemouth on Saturday. Matic, 30, released a statement on Instagram on Monday defending his decision to boycott the practice.

I recognise fully why people wear poppies, I totally respect everyone’s right to do so and I have total sympathy for anyone who has lost loved ones due to conflict,” he wrote.

However, for me it is only a reminder of an attack that I felt personally as a young, frightened 12-year old boy living in Vrelo, as my country was devastated by the bombing of Serbia in 1999. Whilst I have done so previously, on reflection I now don't feel it is right for me to wear the poppy on my shirt.

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I do not want to undermine the poppy as a symbol of pride within Britain or offend anyone, however, we are all a product of our own upbringing and this is a personal choice for the reasons outlined.

"I hope everyone understands my reasons now that I have explained them and I can concentrate on helping the team in the games that lie ahead.”

It has become tradition for players in English football to wear a poppy on their jersey to commemorate Remembrance Day and those who have lost their lives fighting in armed conflicts.

However, the practice has come under scrutiny in recent years with several players explaining their personal reasons for choosing not to wear the poppy.


Republic of Ireland international James McClean is the most prominent opponent in recent seasons. The winger, who now represents Stoke City in the English Championship, hails from Derry in Northern Ireland, where in 1972 British soldiers shot dead 13 civilian protesters during ‘Bloody Sunday’, citing that as among the reasons why he feels it is inappropriate to wear a poppy.

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McClean released a statement of his own last week in which he detailed his decision, adding that “uneducated cavemen singing anti-Irish songs” will not force him to change his mind and that he is being discriminated against because he is an Irish Catholic.

The English FA have opened an investigation into McClean following his allegations, a move which prompted him to react on Monday.


The FA are investigating me after Saturday's game, for what exactly?he wrote on Instagram.

"Yet week in week out for the past seven years I get constant sectarian abuse, death threats, objects being thrown, chanting which is heard loud and clear every week which my family, wife and kids have to listen to.

 "They turn a blind eye and not a single word or condemnation of any sort. 

"Huddersfield away last year while playing for West Brom where there was an incident with their fans which was on the game highlights, where the cameras clearly caught it, yet the FA when [a] complaint was made to them said there 'was not enough evidence'.

 "If it was a person's skin colour or if it was anti-Muslim, someone's gender, there would be an uproar and it would be taken in a completely different way and dealt with in a different manner.”