Martin Lipton, the Sun’s deputy head of sport, has said that English fans attending the World Cup will change their attitude towards Russia, which he views as a welcoming and friendly country
In an exclusive interview with RT, Lipton praised the organization of the ongoing World Cup in Russia. He also discussed England’s World Cup fears and deteriorating political relations between Russia and the UK.
“It’s been a fantastic tournament,” Lipton said of the football showpiece taking place in Russia.
“I think the welcome from the Russian people has been clear to everyone. The organization has been superb, the weather has been great. The football has been fantastic. Loads of great games, loads of goals. It’s been really, really good at the end of the first stage now. It’s been a real pleasure to be here, it’s an absolute joy.”
He also outlined that his perception of Russia had changed after he saw a large number of open-hearted and hospitable people enjoying the football extravaganza.
“Previously I’ve always found Russian people somewhat more reserved than they appear to be at this moment. The sheer color and the kaleidoscope of nations has made the event a global event with a Russian background, rather than perhaps a Russian event,” he said.
“There are lot of young people who are really energized by the thought that the world is coming to their doorstep. Open and friendly people are everywhere. Also I’m just blown away by how brilliant the transport system is. Because the London Underground really is a disaster. And this place, you can get anywhere in no time at all in a much bigger city,” he added.
Talking about English World Cup fears raised from numerous reports in the UK press, which pictured Russia as a hostile state riddled with racism, Lipton said that this is a “culture of fear” which has gained power amid recently escalated tensions between Britain and Russia.
“I think, it’s a culture of fear which runs both ways. You know, people in Russia were sort of taught to be fearful of the West over many years, people in the West had, let’s say, over 60 years of fear of the Russian bear. And unfortunately things have intensified in the last six months.
“Cross statements by government officials on a certain side didn’t help either. And people were fearful, and what happened in Marseille (at Euro 2016) was horrendous. And it’s clear to say that certain elements of the Russian government did support the behavior of Russian fans who were an absolute disgrace in Marseille. And England fans were fearful of that. They were scared of a repeat,” Lipton said.
“That’s understandably caused some concerns among England fans who are now getting the message it [hooliganism] is back. No, it’s not like that, its brilliant, come out. And so if England progress and keep going, there will be more and more fans from England wanting to come out and share the party.”
England defender Danny Rose said he was open to having his family visit him during the World Cup, having been reassured there was no threat of racism.
Commenting on Rose’s decision, Lipton said: “Danny’s family have suffered racism in Doncaster, Leeds, it’s not just other parts of the [world]. But we can’t hide away from the fact that there are incidents even just in the build-up to World Cup. French players being racially abused in St. Petersburg,” he said.
“So there were reasons behind that view. But as I said this is a different Russia. Things are changing. Maybe the idiots are being moved out of Russian society and as well as being isolated, or being put in their place. Because nobody wants to be known as a country full of racism.”
Lipton also suggested that English fans who came to Russia to support their team will go home full of positive impressions about the country.
“Wherever England play in Rostov, Moscow, or Samara or whatever it might be they will see a part of the world that they’ve never dreamed of going to. And travel does broaden the mind by its very nature. And that’s going to be positive. And they will go home with a different image of Russia.”
Talking about Western media reports accusing RT of state propaganda, the Sun sport writer said that all state broadcast corporations, including the BBC, have a similar strategy of covering world events to suit the demands of their society.
“All state broadcast take a view of the world which is centric upon their nation. So RT is going to take a Russia-centric view of the world, just like the BBC takes England-centric view of the world. That’s just natural, innate, there is no way around that. The question is when is telling a story from a partisan view and when is it propaganda. But that’s in the eye of the beholder. Samuel Johnson 400 years ago talked about patriotism being the last refuge of the scoundrel. But other people would say that’s the only right thing to be. The English media were accused of being traitors for leaking a team sheet last week. So I mean the world is a bit bonkers sometimes.”