From the Wire — Russia, World Cup 2018

17 Jun

Russian flag

“The 2018 World Cup will be the the largest gathering of foreigners in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is a tournament that has divided opinion and prompted calls for a boycott. The issues of racism and authoritarianism have time and again featured in the discourse around Russia and the World Cup.

“Over the next month or so, it will be a time to know Russia better. The importance of this cannot be overstated, particularly at a time when propaganda-driven accounts obscure reality. It is an unusual opportunity also because the host, in its drive to host a successful World Cup, has sought to make Russia more accessible to visiting fans and journalists.

“Finally, and as always, it is a chance to learn more about the participating nations. The cultural symbolism of their presence assumes greater significance in the frenzied spectacle that is the World Cup. […dunno about that; the virtues of soccer in bringing humanity or people together is total bullshit; it’s quite clear that it does the absolute opposite, and especially at international levels, becomes an opportunity for the expression of the most virulent and violent nationalism: the “games” for our age, or to spin on another quote: “…war by other means.”]

“The following is an excerpt from the first article in a series from Russia (  analysing the socio-political issues that surround the World Cup. Over the next month, with a combination of perspectives and reporting from the ground, overlooked and underplayed themes in football will be carried to the surface on The Wire.”


“Any attempt at understanding Russian influence on the geopolitical front can’t overlook the imbalance which colours its relationship with the prosperous West. As Tony Wood ** noted (
last year, “The paradox of Russia’s recent resurgence is that, for all its refusals to fall into line with Washington’s priorities, it is still in no position to mount a frontal challenge to the West.”

Hosting a World Cup allows potential for reshaping the political narrative. This is especially key for Russia when its differences with the West are no longer ideological, even though relations are at their lowest since the end of the Cold War.

In the context of football administration, it is important to acknowledge that power still resides with the privileged nation states of the West. Interestingly, even though football is not among the most popular sports in the US, the Americans could not bring themselves to accept that they lost out to Qatar in the bidding rights for the 2022 World Cup. The ** subsequent prosecution of corrupt FIFA officials (
by federal law-enforcement bodies was not entirely motivated by a sense of justice.

But one should be careful to not overstate the World Cup’s impact, when the implications for a country’s foreign policy are considered. Hosting the World Cup allows for minor turns, which are not insignificant, but a paradigm shift is unlikely to materialise. There are other political strains in football that have appeared in Russia already.”


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