How much are you looking forward to the World Cup? If you’re like me, the answer to that is a whole lot.
But should we be?
Aren’t we in danger of sleepwalking into a one big dangerous disaster? What are we thinking of? Should this really be even going ahead in the current circumstances? I’m not sure it should, even though I want it to.
If it wasn’t the World Cup, we wouldn’t be looking forward to a tournament that was awarded by a discredited organisation, to an undemocratic, thoroughly corrupt country that is virtually a dictatorship, that has made incursions into Ukraine and annexed the Crimea to the opprobrium of most of the rest of Europe, is interfering in democratic elections and referendums all over the west and has either lost control of a nerve agent, or has deployed someone to use a nerve agent in an act of prolonged revenge in Salisbury, if not elsewhere too.
Who knows where and when they might choose to deploy a nerve agent again? Why not at a football match featuring a country that they feel aggrieved towards? And if that were not enough, it is a country often violently intolerant of anyone who isn’t heterosexual and white. Oh yeah, and it has some of the most vicious ultras who will happily beat you to death should the opportunity arise.
These are the bald truths. How is this even happening? In any other circumstances we’d surely be saying we should boycott the event for the safety of all concerned. But we’re not. In fact, the whole issue of pulling out is rarely even discussed within football. It’s as if we all want the World Cup to happen so much, that we we dare not look the facts straight in the face for fear that it will become obvious that the argument for Russia 2018 happening is absolutely untenable.
What should we do about this? Surely by just keeping our head down, pretending Russia is a normal country, that all of these issues haven’t happened and are not ongoing, we’re letting them off the hook. We’re allowing them to pretend to be a typical western country, and they’re just not. Far from it. Okay, I know you can argue that England is soaked in blood and corruption too, so who are the English to judge what is right and wrong? I get that. But even so. At least we’ve not seen Theresa May half-naked on a horse. Yet.
The old mantra that politics and football don’t mix and that one can exist independent of the other was always wrong – and you don’t hear it said as much these days – but it was wheeled out a couple of weeks ago when it was suggested in some political quarters that England could withdraw from the World Cup in Russia after the events in Salisbury. Admittedly, it was said by one of the most mendacious, two-faced, duplicitous, idiotic, vile and downright rank your-arm-would-never-tire-of-punching politicians we’ve had the misfortune to have inflicted upon us by a despicable section of the electorate. And this may be why the issue has been ignored so comprehensively by football itself.
Who wants to be on the side of any member of the bloviating twatocracy that is currently making a shambles out of even pretending to govern with any authority or ability? Even the mild-mannered Gareth Southgate dismissed the foreign secretary’s words out of hand and in doing so made himself appear to be a far, far better, far more decent candidate for that governmental post than the current ridiculous incumbent.
If we didn’t all love a World Cup so much, if it was another sport, I’m sure it would feel easier to advocate withdrawal from the tournament.
So what do we do? Should we boycott it? If we did, what would it achieve? And is it even practical at this late date?
It would say loudly that Russia’s behaviour both domestically and overseas is not acceptable to the rest of the world. It would be an exercise in soft power, a peaceful way to try and put the Russian bear back in its cage.
Trouble is, it’s already April. Some have said that the tournament could be put on elsewhere in Europe and in theory, that is technically probably true. It could be put on in the UK, I’m sure, but with supporters travel plans already made and paid for, with teams’ accommodation already arranged, it isn’t exactly practical. It would certainly be a lot of admin, but even so, it could be done, even if it would throw a lot of people’s plans up into the air. That would make many feel it wasn’t worth the effort. However, shouldn’t we be trying to do the right thing, not the least inconvenient thing? Wouldn’t no tournament be better than holding one in these circumstances?
The thing is, I doubt any host has been ‘awarded’ the World Cup by FIFA without having to persuade the right people with the right gifts. And perhaps that is another very good reason to boycott the whole thing – as a protest against the heinous governing body. FIFA is an organisation that somehow stole ownership of the World Cup from the people, trademarked it and then sold it back to us so comprehensively that you can’t even write the words ‘World Cup’ on any product without applying to and paying FIFA for a licence to do so. They sit atop the game like a dissolute potentate, poison and decay oozing from every pore and infecting everything and everyone so comprehensively that we’ve ended up with Russia 2018, where everything is soaked in their fetid sin.
Indeed, another good reason to boycott would be to protest at the very nature of FIFA’s ownership and operation of the World Cup in order to line its own pockets. The World Cup shouldn’t be used as a money-making asset. It should be not-for-profit, transparent and open. It should be bringing the world together in celebration of football, not shamelessly financially milking fans’ passion for international competition. The naked bribery and corruption that has been its modus operandi for decades has stolen millions from FAs, money that was needed at the grassroots. Can’t we protest that?
We can see everything about Russia 2018 is some shade of disgraceful but if the 31 countries who aren’t Russia can’t get their act together to boycott it for any of all the above reasons as well as many, many more, then what exactly would it take?
I don’t think Russia 2018 should even happen and yet I still can’t wait for it to happen, and in that, I would suggest, lies the problem.