Putin’s World Cup

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The dust has settled after the teams were drawn into their World Cup groups, and the knowledge of the ease with which England should qualify from theirs has left fans with a faint hope of a second round exit on penalties. While Panini sticker books are being bought by middle aged men pretending to have children and defenders in Uruguay’s group live in fear of the teeth of Luis Suarez, the Russian president sits on his throne, surrounded by his brainwashed minions, waiting for the Putin show to begin.

The country has been shrouded in controversy ever since they were announced as the hosts of the 2018 World Cup: Allegations of bribery were aimed at their bid for the competition; Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down; Sports minister Vitaly Mutko was at the centre of a drug doping scandal; Homophobia, racism and hooliganism continue to be accepted.

Despite the Garcia report clearing Russia in any wrongdoing during the bidding for the 2018 World Cup, the report noted that Russia provided “only a limited amount of documents available for review”, as the computers leased to the Russian team had been destroyed by a foundation linked to Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, and several email accounts were unable to be accessed. The computers and emails were “considered obsolete” and it went no further.

298 people were killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine. The surface to air launcher from the Kremlin’s 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade had been smuggled by rebels across the Russian border and mistakenly used to bring down the “bird”. Amid already rising tensions over military action in Crimea, UK politicians, among others, called for discussions over Russias ability to host the tournament. Nothing was done.

Vitaly Mutko, former Sports Minister and current Deputy Prime Minister, was embroiled in one of the biggest sporting scandals of the decade. A 144-page report by the respected Canadian law professor Richard McLaren on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) found that more than 1,000 Russians athletes across more than 30 sports were involved in or benefited from state-sponsored doping between 2011 and 2015 in Russia. His involvement was confirmed earlier this week when he was banned from participating in any future Olympic Games. This is the man that is head of the organising committee for the World Cup. The Schmid commission later found that there had been a “systemic manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia” and it had come under the authority of the Russian sports ministry.

Russia continues to halt progress on LGBTQ rights at the United Nations with their ‘Traditional Values’ resolution. Not only is it the law in Russia that same-sex couples can not adopt, in the name of ‘protecting children’, the most recent legislative submission to actually remove children from known or suspected homosexuals is the latest example of this growing hate campaign. The ‘gay propaganda’ law actually prohibits any public mention of homosexuality. A pathetic attempt to honour ‘traditional Russian families’ and be as ‘un-Western’ as possible. Racism is commonly seen on the streets and in the stadiums in Russia. In what seemed to be an attempt at multiculturalism before one of Cameroon’s matches at this summer’s Confederations Cup in Russia, the major tuneup event for the World Cup, a group of fans wore blackface in an official parade in Sochi. Several also had bananas hanging around their necks. Perhaps the biggest worry is that the people of Russia, some very intelligent, seem to accept the will of Putin, no matter how ridiculous his policies. The growing repression, harassment and danger to the lives of LGBTQ members, continued xenophobia and racism, as well as the fear of hooliganism is perhaps the biggest worry ahead of the World Cup.

There is no doubt that the World Cup will be just as eagerly awaited and supported when it comes around in June, but it’s important that we do not forget the conditions with which Russia was handed the chance to host and the doping allegations that have arisen since. We also must be aware that the multicultural atmosphere that we have become used to at these global sporting events is unlikely to be on show this time around.