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McCain, Russia and the World Cup

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In the latest Cold War sentiments brewing between the US and Russia, controversial US Republican Senator John McCain has reissued a demand to pull the plug on Russia’s right to host the World Cup in 2018. Speaking to ESPN/ABC podcast Capital Games, McCain asked whether it was “appropriate to have this venue in Russia,” — although he’s not the first Republican to struggle at his own language, and by venue he surely must have meant event or tournament  — “and aren’t there other countries that would be far less controversial?”

McCain wasn’t finished, adding that FIFA’s decision “absolutely should be reconsidered… [and] I’d like to see the United States and other — say, the British perhaps and other countries — raise the issue in ordinary meetings, periodic meetings that they have.”

Servile disciples of their suzerains across the pond, the British did answer McCain’s call to pile the pressure on Russia, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg telling the Sunday Times it’s “unthinkable to allow Putin to preside over the biggest event in global sports,” adding that threatening Russia’s 2018 World Cup would be a “very potent political and symbolic sanction.”

This isn’t the first time the West, clearly at political odds with Russia, have called on FIFA to replace the venue of the 2018 World Cup. This past March, two US Senators wrote a letter addressed to FIFA President Sepp Blatter. In their missive, Senators Mark Kirk and Dan Coats, both Republicans, didn’t only ask FIFA to forbid Russia from hosting the World Cup, they also wanted the Russian national team to be banned from participating in this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Their precedent was the Western-imposed ejection of Yugoslavia from both the 1992 European Championships and the 1994 World Cup. The thespian senators even gave FIFA the proposition of completely expelling Russia from FIFA.

As was expected after sleazy Western media coverage of the Sochi Olympics, the West have now targeted Russia’s legal right to host the 2018 World Cup. Under the pretext that Russia is the culprit behind the still under-investigation Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 disaster, the West and its allies have been unyieldingly castigating Russia. In times that resemble the Cold War more than ever before, the US and Russia have been at political loggerheads since former US President George W. Bush voided the Anti-Ballistic Treaty signed by the two countries in 1972.

Vladimir Putin became president of Russia after Boris Yeltsin’s term came to an end in 2000, and when the US realized Putin wouldn’t be as obeisant as his predecessor, relations began to sour. Clinton was also replaced by President George Bush in that same year, and it took two years of contretemps before Bush did away with the 1972 treaty. This catalyzing decision meant that using territory of its NATO allies, the US could place missiles on Russia’s doorstep, like in Poland for example, or Turkey.

Several ensuing political differences firmly place the two countries on different ends of the table. From the erstwhile Iraq War and South Ossetia/Abkhazia conflict to the more recent wars in Syria and the Ukraine, time has isolated the two camps greater than it has in recent history. But it was only during the Cold War that the political tension between the two included athletics.

Instead of using the worthwhile effect sport has on the masses, where it bridges people together casting aside all differences, the US and co. are using a sleazy tactic to do the complete opposite. Imagine a World Cup encounter between Russia and the United States, even though a more interesting bout between the two sides would be in an ice-hockey rink, the adrenaline between both teams would be sky-high and the crowd would love to watch such a heated derby.

Amusingly, during the Cold War era both the USA and the USSR were a bit more classy; by way of boycotting tournaments such as the Olympics in lieu of threatening each other. The Americans did this for the 1980 Olympics held in Moscow, and the Soviets didn’t go to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Wanting to play the peacemaker, FIFA said that it wants “its tournaments to promote dialogue, understanding and peace among peoples,” and has steadfastly rejected any motion to relocate the 2018 World Cup in Russia, adding that it will “achieve a positive change.”

Senator McCain’s last option is to be the better man, and bow out…either bowing out of his preposterous ploy to politicize sport, or to ask the US Men’s National Football team to bow out. And after their performance in Brazil this summer, with their match against Portugal having more viewers than the NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Final combined, they won’t be so complaisant with the idea of not going to Russia in 2018.

As for the football-loving Brits, no matter how servile they are, they will never boycott a World Cup.

Ilija M. Trojanovic can be reached at: ilija.trojanovic@gmail.com.

 

 

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