'Strip Russia' campaign aiming for World Cup 2018
So there it was. Russia just awarded the World Cup in 2018, and the prime time sports show on Ireland’s top radio station, RTE Radio 1 and I got the call to give our reaction in Moscow. It was fair enough; I’d helped on the bid and worked in Russian sport. Logical as they couldn’t get anyone from the Russian Football Union (RFU) or a Russian sports journalist to come on. Plus my colleague was contracted with RTE and the producer knew me personally. I was there as a favor to give local reaction, feedback and a look ahead.
For the failed Spain-Portugal bid there was an English journalist. For England’s car crash circus of corruption was another English writer. For the unfortunate Dutch-Belgian effort, wait for it - a Flemish man. As if it was another English journalist. Each cried foul. Their bids were best.
The Russians, their argument went, had paid off Executive Committee (ExCo) members and like their countrymen who rampage across the continent of Europe in the name of St. George, Football and 'Engerland' on a regular basis - they weren’t having it!
The Englishman commenting on the English failure bemoaned that all major events “from Beijing on” were being stolen and run by dictators and totalitarian states. I agreed. Legacy is big for leaders. His own leader Tony Blair had secured the 2012 London Olympics and wanted the World Cup in 2018 too. Oh, he wasn’t having that. With respect, Blair worked with the will of the people. I referred him to the illegal war on Iraq, which that same journalist objected to and marched against.
With profound respect, it was not the same. Putin and Russia - Bad; England and whoever - Good.
His countryman in Spain worried that while he was never in Russia, ever, he’d never go there for fear of racist thugs hunting foreigners down. A short time before this same journalist belittled an African player in Spain for threatening to walk off the pitch after enduring racist taunts. Saying that it’s a “societal issue.”
The Englishman speaking for the Belgium-Holland bid declared that Russia had cheated and that it was not safe to visit the country. That there probably wouldn’t even be a World Cup there and that a boycott should be called.
Remember this was Irish Radio, you only had to listen to state-run media like the BBC to realize that there was such a shock the country had failed to bring football home. The BBC itself showed deep corruption within the English Football Association (FA) and FIFA, as well as the bidding process, right before decision day. The English FA and media rounded on the investigative journalists for “damaging” the English bid. The same English bid that danced to Trinidad power broker Jack Warner’s tune and rolled out the future king of England and David Beckham to all and sundry.
The same English bid who’d a backroom deal in place with the United States Soccer Federation and Chuck Blazer to support dividing up the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 between them. Football would come home in 2018 and to the US of A in 2022. Busy scratching each other's backs and sneering at the lower orders, they didn’t realize that sport is business and politics. The power removed from the racist old boys club led by Stanley Rous and spread around the World changed the game, and changed it totally.
And now we return to one point I made this Summer in the RT studio when the fury kicked off with doping in Russia. I argued then that the single worst move made by Putin and his team was to win the right to host the World Cup in 2018. I said it that night on RTE Radio 1 that it was a mistake. I said and wrote it many times since. It was a mistake. Not because of the expenses or post-World Cup stadia or anything that can be qualified. It was a mistake because it broke the corrupt cartel of England and the USA from hosting 2018 and 2022. And believe me, the English and their FA have history on their side. Like a psychopathic lover who gets dumped only to do everything they can to get back the one who spurned them, England has form. And like their brethren across the Atlantic, they are pushing hard to get their way. With a compliant media and greedy sports establishment, they are edging closer and closer.
Ireland, India, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Yemen, Palestine, and the USA. What have they all in common? All were colonies or protectorates who descended into Civil War and complete instability when they broke free of the yoke. England (United Kingdom) fought to a standstill in Ireland, granted independence with terms that would divide the island on the double. A segregated colony in the North where the minority of the population were oppressed and disenfranchised. And a divided South which suffers until today from Civil War wounds. A Civil War in which both sides received material support from the UK. If they couldn’t have it, nobody would.
Even the good old USA, free from British taxation and rule, armed and sent Irish rebels up to attack the British colony of Canada. These ‘Fenian Raids’ beginning just a year after the bloody American Civil War ended. Brutality begets brutality, and it continues today, on the battle and sports fields.
It was expected this summer that the ugly heads of sporting intolerance and hypocrisy would rise with the doping scandal in Russia. For the motivated, it was a reason to call for the 2018 FIFA Word Cup to be moved from Russia. It began with a snide piece in a Canadian newspaper that was repeated by The Guardian and mimicked in the Irish Times. It buzzed around until there were Olympic Games to write about and editors didn’t need to fill spaces.
As soon as the 2nd McLaren Report was released it begun again. Again Canada and the USA had their sports journos out in force, then over this side of the pond The Guardian chimed in again. Some pieces were horrifically ignorant, topped off by this shocking line in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Anyone who thinks that sports boycotts don’t work should take a look at apartheid South Africa until it ended that heinous policy in 1994."
Russian doping = South African Apartheid. I had to read and re-read to make sure my tired brain had got that right. Such logic leaps are valued somewhere, I suppose.
The double whammy of Bobsled and Skeleton World Championship removal from Sochi came after an initial whinge from the US Bobsled team (who refused testers into their base) and then the boycott by Latvia. As one of the best outfits in the World and no doping test failures, the Latvians made a stand. And fair play. After all, their coach, Sandis Prusis, that legend of bobsledding himself knows how the system works. Caught doping before the Olympics in 2002, he claimed his supplements were contaminated. He was let off but flopped in the Olympics. We must ask Mr. Sappelt to look at that one. Race favorites are getting off a doping charge on condition they don’t win. A quiet word with Paula Radcliffe, the World’s fastest and cleanest female marathon runner, might also be in order.
That other whammy? The latest Fancy Bears wheeze showing US Anti-Dopings Travis Tygart winding up the Canadians to go after Russia while looking for the Europeans to do the same. He didn’t quite succeed, but anything for the man is a success. After all, he and his agency are like a toy sailboat tossed by an Atlantic storm. Any sports that matter in the USA ignore him. He has no control over baseball, football, UFC, boxing, hockey, basketball. All sports where doping is rife, and he needs to shout loud to stay relevant. The man who brought down the most tested athlete, Lance Armstrong, now is about as relevant to the fight for athlete’s health as the proverbial snowflake.
We have not heard the end of the strip Russia campaign. There were cheers when Sochi lost the February event, and this is just a stepping stone. The removal of the World Cup from Russia is the golden chalice. Though like the duplicitous Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, this might not end up as England wishes. Getting within touching distance, as Alison Doody found in the same movie, of the Holy Grail, does not always mean getting your hands on it.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.