Fear and Loathing at the World Cup

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Fear and Loathing at the World Cup

(Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

Written by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront

The 2018 World Cup is the first major global sporting event held in Russia since the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Like the Olympics, which coincided with the Ukrainian Maidan coup d’etat, Crimea’s secession, and subsequent civil war in Ukraine, the World Cup was heavily politicized. In both instances efforts to discredit Russia and, in the case of World Cup, to even deprive it of the right to host it, were part of Western powers arsenal of hostile actions intended to bring about its political and economic collapse.

But while there are similarities between the two events, there are also major differences which show just how much the world has changed during the four years which have passed. In 2014, Western powers self-confidence exuded during the Ukraine coup suggested that a regime change in Ukraine would have a suitable “domino effect” on Russia—the harsh rhetoric aimed at the government of Vladimir Putin and Dmitriy Medvedev was indicative of their expectation there soon be a more amenable group of people in the Kremlin. By the time of the World Cup, that expectation has evaporated.  There are no more headlines predicting Russian collapse “in the next 6 months”. What is more, whereas Sochi took place when West-Russia relations were still relatively good, World Cup began after four years of intense information warfare waged against Russia.

In practical terms it meant foreign visitors, particularly ones coming from NATO countries, to Sochi did not encounter the jarring disconnect between what their government officials and mainstream media were telling them and the reality of life in Russia. It is for that reason so many governments, while abstaining from an official boycott of the games, nevertheless sought to dissuade their citizens from attending the games by a variety of “softer” measures, such as issuing travel advisories warning of crime, unrest, and even terrorism in Russia, which actually experiences fewer acts of terrorism than many Western European countries and is not the world’s ground zero for mass shootings like the United States. The efforts to promote an unofficial boycott of the World Cup did have some success, in the sense that they depressed the attendance from some countries—there are reports of large numbers of tickets for England matches being unsold. However, those who did attend were nearly unanimous in recognizing the yawning gap between Western propaganda and Russian reality. The World Cup did become that which NATO’s neocons feared: a chance for Russia to break through the information blockade and present itself to the world. It remains to be seen what effect this fact will have on foreign policies of their respective countries. However, given Russia’s success at presenting itself as an essentially normal country populated with normal people, it’s rather less likely Western leaders, intelligence services, and compliant media will be able to spin outlandish conspiracy theories implicating Russia in all manner of crimes without a greater push-back from the readers.

There are already indications the World Cup is having a political effect. After all, it was only to be expected for European leaders whose teams are doing particularly well to seek the reflected glory of their players by actually going to Russia and cheering on their compatriots.  The first European leader to break Russia’s “isolation” was Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović who attended her country’s game with the host team and presumably will make another appearance should that team continue to advance. Nor did she confine her visit to Russia solely to sports. Her activities included paying respects to the World War 2-era Red Army and meeting with Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev, with whom she moreover shared a box during the game. Croatia’s victory was marred by one of its players celebrating the victory with a “Glory to Ukraine” cheer which led to him being expelled from the World Cup by the Croatian Football Federation.

Europe’s “heavyweights” will be represented by France’s Emmanuel Macron who will attend the France-Belgium semi-final. It remains to be seen what, if any, representation Great Britain will send in recognition of England’s rather better than expected showing at the World Cup. Sadly and unfortunately predictably, the British opponents of Russia-West rapprochement have raised their heads again, when a pair of British citizens were admitted to a hospital in Amesbury with signs of a chemical poisoning. Even though at first they were diagnosed as suffering from Fentanyl overdose, the British powers-that-be quickly decided to revive the Skripal poisoning canard and attribute this incident to miraculously undegraded Novichok left over from the supposed poisoning of the Skripals. Given the need to appear “tough on Russia”, Angela Merkel must be secretly relieved that her country’s team suffered an early elimination. Likewise the US neocons must be celebrating the fact their national team failed to qualify for the games altogether.

As luck would have it, the World Cup will coincide with a NATO summit which will no doubt produce a few headlines of its own, given Donald Trump’s stated goal of compelling its member states to buy more US weapons and make fewer claims on the US military, and with the Putin-Trump summit that will occur shortly after the World Cup concludes. Such a meeting was unthinkable after the Sochi Olympics. Western leaders, Barack Obama not least among them, did not believe they had any need to negotiate or consult with their Russian counterparts. Four years later, the 2018 World Cup demonstrated beyond any doubt Russia weathered the storm of sanctions and political pressure with flying colors.

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  • lene johansen

    Several UK government ministers have resign (two hours ago) Boris Johnson and others

    • Concrete Mike

      Hahaha bojo the bozo is gone??? What a shame LOL

      • Wise Gandalf

        if may falls, he willhave a big comeback

        • Concrete Mike

          Thats the only way he can get in…get appointed because no one will ever vote for him…right Al?

    • BMWA1

      Boo hoo

  • antoun

    good article!!

  • Mikronos

    Considering that, after the Maidan, the World Cup was something the West was demanding of FIFA to cancel, the events have been outstanding.

    Missing from the piece is the infamous ‘Russian doping scandal’ that pretty-well eliminated Russia from Olympic competition at Rio and Pyong Cheong. That spuriousity was in play on some US sites that were preparing the World for another ‘doping incident’ designed to win the Cup for Russia – or something.

    Since then, the US has reverted to the old incipient demise of ‘the Putin regime’ , this time at the hands of future old age pensioners.

    • Wise Gandalf

      russia bribed the whole fifa

      • Concrete Mike

        Thats just how fifa is dude…what about qatar???

        • Wise Gandalf

          also qatar. and lot of other countries

      • Gary Sellars

        Take the cock outta yer mouth and stop mumbling…

  • gs1710

    Can you guys on this platform simply let the soccer Wold Cup, as it is – a sport event where politics step aside for a couple of weeks. Russia is an excellent organizer and the games are a very good event! So, let the games unpolitical. Fetch a beer from the fridge and enyoj the remaing games!

    • ريتاج السلفية

      Successfull joint operation of ISIS, FSA and JTS or HTS against prominent Assad regime target in Idlib countryside https://youtu.be/iB1uW0wGpUk?t=39s

      • Gary Sellars

        Be silent goat-fucker.

    • Concrete Mike

      10 4 brother sports is life

    • frankly

      Why don’t you try that whine on the Brits, while you busy yourself with bread/beer and circus/sport, the empire thrashes about in it’s death or final victory dance. Your personal addictions aside, go ahead and cram that beer up your butt sideways.

      When the US sponsored the Maiden coup during Sochi you were probably cheering, USA, USA! Sports free of politics is like saying sports free of gambling. Wake up numb nuts.

  • Wise Gandalf

    The first European leader to break Russia’s “isolation” was Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović

    and the croatian players congratulated ukranie. ruskies already protested.
    so, russia will be isolated also in the future.

    • Gary Sellars

      In your dreams, foolish Ukropi-fondling cockroach.

  • BMWA1

    Just checked INTER’s (TV-Kiev) ratings on the Russia-Croatia match, it was huge, about 5,000,000 households. INTER has been broadcasting (at some personal risk) the World Cup in Ukraine.

  • S Melanson

    Good article.

  • Jay Lindberg

    Congrats on running a successful World Cup. Russia and its leadership have once again demonstrated by actions and not just rhetoric that they deserve the admiration and respect of the global community. It is unfortunate that leadership in the West and America refuses to learn from Russia’s successes.

    • GRAHL

      You think no one in the west could have run a successful World Cup?

  • andyoldlabour

    What a great World Cup this is – great stadiums, friendly atmosphere, history, culture, great games, and the English/Scottish pundits – Ally McHoist, Rio Ferdinand, Danny Murphy are saying how good it is. The England fans who have journied to Russia are loving it, and many want to return to see more of the place.

    Who cares what the misery mischief makers in Westminster think – they are trolls.

  • hohenstaufen

    Cut the crap/bullshit. No croatian player was send home; do not lie and do not transfrom this site in a RT crap….

  • Black Waters

    @@disqus_EDSZs02hj4:disqus is right, while most people are entertained the U.S carries along with it the classic “Panem et circenses”, huge events are used as distractions meanwhile they are doing black operations (not always, but most of the times).