One of the moments I remember most from the 2018 World Cup is the raising of the trophy. It’s not that I have a special sentiment for the French who won, and not even a drop of pain for the Croats who stood on the other side. I remember this moment mainly because of the other people who were in the frame. Or rather, one man. Vladimir Putin.
While all the players were washed by the rain, an umbrella hovered above the Russian president so that he would not get wet. While all the players were thinking about winning or losing, Putin was sure that they were all players in his game. The game that brought the World Cup to be held on Russian soil.
And it’s amazing to think about that Putin. The man who until a moment ago received caresses from the entire world of sports, was thrown away in an instant from all branches. The man who played calculated chess with the world throughout the years, got knocked out at once – and he and the players of the Russian national team will also watch the upcoming World Cup from home.
One might mistakenly think that the world has moved on. Here, Russia is an example that despite the multiple losses of money, the world is fighting for its values. One can mistakenly think that corruption is over, that good people are running football, that we are on our way to another place. But then we remember where the World Cup was held this year.
It’s not just moving the World Cup to winter
It is not only the corruption and the many funds that were transferred under the table in order for the world football celebration to land in Qatar. Nor is it moving the World Cup to the winter, a move that is expected to further burden the players and undoubtedly cause injuries. It is mainly the human rights that were violated during the preparations for the World Cup. It is mainly the thousands of workers who are buried under the stadiums. It’s mostly applause for a country where homosexuality is a criminal offense.
And in the end, we will continue to tell ourselves the liberal and exciting story, but we will not be able to change the big picture – the second World Cup in a row is taking place in a very problematic country. So it’s true that FIFA (and the whole world) did the right thing by boycotting Russia, but in fact they just replaced corrupt money with corrupt money. Nothing fundamental has changed, and unfortunately, change is not in sight.
Of course, most of the hypocrisy belongs to FIFA and those who brought us to this situation, but you cannot absolve the football fans of blame. The football fans, and I am among them, who are going to enjoy every moment this month and forget the moral price we pay for it.