FIFA “President for Life” Sepp Blatter is back in the news. Blatter spent the day in Sochi, Russia — one of the host cities for the 2018 World Cup — rubbing elbows with Russian president Vladimir Putin and probably laughing about people demanding transparency while stuffing his face with Putin’s finest bear meat and oppression-infused vodka.
Blatter expressed his excitement that Russia is hosting the next World Cup. He thanked the relevant Russian people including Putin, Russia’s sports minister Vitaly Mutko, and the CEO of the Russian local organizing committee, Alexei Sorokin. He also, per The Guardian, added this:
“Some people are wanting the World Cup to be taken away from Russia but we will give one answer to this – we are involved in football and we will not allow politics to get in the way.”
“If a few politicians are not particularly happy that we are hosting the World Cup in Russia, then I always tell them: ‘Well then, stay at home.’”
The show must go on. That’s Blatter’s official position; so-called interfering politics be damned. Never mind that this is the same person who said this last month:
But while we’re here, we might as well look at a few of the things in Russian soccer that won’t get in the way of FIFA and Russia giving the world some soccer in 2018.
In February, Russian NGO SOVA Center in collaboration with the Fare network published a report titled “Time for Action: Incidents of discrimination in Russian football, May 2012 – May 2014.” The report, among other things, chronicles what seems like a never-ending list of incidents that specifically occur under the umbrella of Russian soccer. These are things that won’t get in the way of soccer.
Over a two year period, the report counts 99 racist and far-right displays in Russian soccer. That includes banners and visual displays, discriminatory chanting, soccer-related discriminatory graffiti, rallies, and fan manifestos at some of the country’s most prominent clubs. But that won’t get in the way of soccer.
The report also tallied 21 incidents of race and politically motivated violence by soccer fans. That also … you guessed it … won’t get in the way of soccer.
Some highlights from the report:
There are tons of other incidents in the report, which you can read here. But remember, once you finish reading, if you don’t like these things, well then, stay at home, because you’ll probably just be getting in the way of soccer.
But Russia has more than questions about discrimination to answer. Remember, Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, back when it was still part of Ukraine. After a suspect referendum post-invasion, Crimea — while conveniently still occupied by Russian troops — voted to secede from Ukraine to join Team Russia. Ukraine, obviously, was not pleased, which is why Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko has been asking his nation’s allies to boycott the 2018 World Cup.
When packaged together, between episode after episode of discriminatory incidents in the Russian game and Russia invading a neighboring sovereign nation four years before hosting a World Cup, you have to wonder if there’s anything Russia could do that would result in FIFA pulling the plug.
Even if you remove the idea of inevitable lawsuits that would occur if a World Cup was taken away four years ahead of a tournament, we already know the answer. It’s an emphatic “hell no.” There’s virtually no way Russia won’t host the next World Cup. Blatter will applaud Team Russia and praise them every step of the way, through episodes of discrimination and land grabs. Ignore the empty platitudes about “doing better” or “taking things seriously.” There are two things important to Blatter at this point: getting re-elected, and keeping the lid on all the nonsense buried under the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.
The best way to do that is for King Blatter to keep his head down and march ahead in lockstep with his partners. It’s “let’s stick together time.” So get ready for three years of the President for Life (which, in fairness, is a term that could also apply to Putin) praising Putin and Russia and even Russian soccer for doing things like “moving in the right direction.” Yes, it will be nauseating, but if you have a problem with that, then you should probably just stay home.