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What does Russia want from the World Cup?

Monday 11 June 2018

RUSSIA is all set to host the football World Cup . With the country mired in controversy over its attitude to Ukraine, racism, its treatment of gays and lesbians and meddling in Western elections, among other issues, Simon Chadwick, Professor of Sports Enterprise at the University of Salford, looks at what the country hopes to gain.

This was originally published in The Conversation.

Professor Chadwick said: “The list of Russia’s tournament wants is presumably lengthy. The president, Vladimir Putin, and his government will be looking to build political capital from being in the global spotlight for a month. Following a litany of deviance – ranging from park-bench poisonings to industrial-scale doping in sport and beyond – Brand Russia needs an international makeover.

“The soft power effect of mega-event hosting would surely seem to be an important goal for Moscow to score as soon as the tournament’s first whistle blows. However, reading the semiotics of Russia’s official World Cup advertising poster actually suggests otherwise. Instead of inducing a warm international glow about the country, the poster implies a statement of nationalist muscularity aimed at a domestic audience that harks back to the Soviet Union’s 1960s heyday.

“After the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, just a few days passed before Russia annexed Crimea. With the country variously engaged in the likes of Syria and eastern Ukraine, a similar post-World Cup incursion into an overseas territory is therefore not inconceivable.

“Football and politics are not supposed to mix, though given Russia’s place in the world right now it seems inevitable they will be forced to. And, by throwing big money and high stakes FIFA politics into the mix, it somehow seems that we are set for some off-field high tackles and diplomatic yellow cards as the tournament begins.”

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Sam Wood

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