You might be excused for thinking that the recent story surrounding the World Cup in Russia seems to be more like a James Bond movie, but unfortunately this latest news is not a fictitious story. Oh and before you say, I know it’s ‘From Russia with Love’, I was just trying to be creative with a Bond title.
Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before the 2018 World Cup was tainted with political issues outside of the game. Of course, there has been a lot of noise surrounding the decision to host the World Cup in Russia, but with the English Prime Minister announcing that no ministers, or members of the Royal Family will be attending, sends a clear message around the world. At first it seemed like a drastic and extreme measure, but having read many reports around the issue, it seems like the correct action to take. A decision as big as this would have not been made lightly, as the implications are so huge and say so much. What is clear and unquestionable, is if experts believe that the Royal Family’s safety could be at risk, then announcing a boycott is the only way.
Saying that, I can’t honestly see ministers or members of the Royal family’s lives being at risk. I mean come on. I doubt even the stupidest person would decide to try and harm the future King of England while the whole world is watching. What I believe is happening, is that the UK are trying to stand up and be heard. And good on them. It’s refreshing and brave to stand up and say ‘no you can’t dictate how everything goes in the world.’ If the reports of the poisoning of a former Russian spy are true, then for me that’s enough for a decision like this to be made. It shows what lengths the Russians are willing to go to get the results that they want. You just have to look at the US and how Trump is portrayed as a Russian puppet after the whole email scandal during the presidential election. That President Vladimir Putin engineered the Russian election meddling operation specifically to hurt Hillary Clinton and benefit Trump.
But this is not an article about World politics, back to the footballing side of things…
Personally, I’ve always thought Russia hosting the World Cup was not a great Idea. Something felt strange when it was announced, and I’m sure a political hand was used to sway the vote and decision on that side of things, also. I have been over to Russia to watch football matches, and have always felt uncomfortable. Let’s just say, it’s not in my top 10 favourite countries to go and watch football. I don’t mean to generalise an entire nation, but when I have been to Russia for a sporting event my experience hasn’t been so positive.
I worry about the English fans going over for the World Cup. It will be a massive test for those supporters. I know English supporters, and I know most of them don’t go looking for trouble (mainly just for a good time and one too many beers), but I do know what pride and patriotism does to a man. The Russian fans will target the English to prove a point within the footballing world, and unfortunately, English fans don’t like to shy away from such confrontations. That being said, the media did predict a lot of issues in South Africa and Brazil and thankfully, there wasn’t. But something tells me this World cup will be a completely different experience, especially those going over to support Southgate’s men. Inevitably there will be trouble and sadly I think it will involve the English supporters. I hope I am wrong. Ultimately, with everything going on outside of the football, I hope the World Cup does run smoothly and the tournament is a huge success and Russia doesn’t prove the world right.
The FA issued a statement saying, “The FA will continue to work closely with the UK Government and relevant authorities regarding our participation in this summer’s FIFA World Cup and the Women’s World Cup qualifier in June… Our priority for all England matches is to ensure the safety and security of the fans, players and staff. As is standard practice, we will take all travel guidance from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”
By the sound of things, not only does the FA and Government deem it unsafe for ministers and members of the Royal Family, but also for the players, staff and supporters. Will we see a boycott from the 2018 World Cup from the FA? I can’t see that happening, but it might save us from another embarrassing performance at a major competition.
I won’t get onto how I believe the England team will get on at the World Cup, that’s for another time, but what I will say is I don’t blame ministers and members of the Royal family saying they won’t be attending the tournament. Even if you paid I wouldn’t go. Well, having said that, it depends, I mean every man has his price.
I don’t think politics outside of football should determine whether a football team travels to another country to play in a tournament. Of course, I think England should travel, and to do their country proud. But it’s impossible to ignore the constant bad press that surrounds Russia. My advice to the team and especially the supporters is…’to proceed with caution’.