Nemanja Matic of Manchester United said he had used the symbol in the past, but would not do it this year. Matic was the only American player who did not wear a poppy on his shirt during the 2-1 winner over Bournemouth.
But said he hoped people would sympathize with his reasons. “I have total sympathy for anyone who has lost their loved ones due to conflicts,” said Matic, who received abuse on social media after the Bournemouth match. “But for me, it’s just a reminder of an attack that I personally felt like a young scared boy who lives in Vrelo when my country was destroyed by the bombing of Serbia in 1999.”
The bombing was part of a NATO-led offensive to drive out Serb forces from Kosovo. Wearing red poppies has become an emotional topic in football in recent years. By 2016, FIFA England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland offered to ignore a ban on players wearing slogans or symbols that are considered personal, political or religious, but the world’s governing body was supported last year.
Ireland winger James McClean is another player who has announced his refusal to wear a poppy and regularly receives abuse for his attitude. McClean is a Roman Catholic from Derry, the Northern Irish City, who came to the world’s attention in 1972 under “Troubles” when British soldiers killed 13 civil protestants during Bloody Sunday. A 14 person later died in the hospital.