LONDON, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) — Manchester United’s Serbian midfielder Nemanja Matic has explained why he didn’t wear a poppy design on his shirt during his side’s 2-1 win away to Bournemouth on Saturday and why he won’t wear one in the future.
It is traditional in England for all professional football teams to incorporate the poppy design into their shirts during November as part of the yearly remembrance for members of the British armed services who died in the service of their country.
However, in a post on ‘Instagram’ on Monday, Matic explained he will no longer wear a poppy as it reminds him of the 1999 bombing of Serbia by NATO forces (including the British Royal Air Force) during the Kosovo war, which claimed an estimated 500 civilian lives.
“I recognize 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. 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 Sabac, as my country was devastated by the bombing of Serbia in 1999.”
“Whilst I did so previously, on reflection I now don’t feel it is right for me to wear the poppy on my shirt,” commented the midfielder.
Matic insisted he did not “want to undermine the poppy as a symbol of pride within Britain or offend anyone,” but added he had made “a personal choice for the reasons outlined.”
The poppy has long been a symbol of respect for the Britain’s war dead as it was one of the few flowers which bloomed among the trenches in the north of France during the First World War.