Russia’s ongoing belligerence in Ukraine and elsewhere is leading to the country becoming increasingly isolated from most of the rest of the world. The latest evidence of the pariah status of Russia on the global stage is the mounting opposition to the idea of Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup.
Russia had made great strides in international relations in the 21st century until the country started flexing it’s military muscles on its neighbors in 2008. Since then, the Russian bear has grown even more belligerent, even invading Eastern Ukraine under the guise of supporting rebels against the Western-leaning government of Ukraine.
One result of Russia’s growing international isolation is a vocal movement in various countries to encourage soccer’s governing body FIFA to strip Russia of the right to host the 2018 World Cup.
Statement from the Chairman of the Polish Football Association
Zbigniew Boniek, the chairman of the Polish football association, minces no words in expressing his opinion about Russia hosting World Cup 2018.
“Hosting the World Cup in Russia is a disastrous mistake, it’s a country engaged in war, who invaded another country,” the former Juventus and Poland midfielder said as we get closer to next week’s FIFA congress.
“In 2010 when Fifa chose Russia to host the World Cup the situation was totally different. But now when Russia is at war with Ukraine? There should be a clause in the contract between Fifa and the host country that enables the executive committee to strip that country in the event of a war. Or violating the charter of the United Nations,” Boniek explained in an interview with Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.
More on opposition to Russia hosting World Cup 2018
Also of note, in July last year, UK Conservative MP Tracey Crouch (currently the minister for sport) said Russia should be stripped of the World Cup.
“I think Russia ought to be stripped now,” she commented. “There’s so much political uncertainty. Football could be used to put pressure on president Putin to change some of his practices. Russia was seemingly a democratic country when they won the bid. There are now sanctions against the country.”
In a related development, the crash in oil prices and the collapse of the Russian economy led sports minister Vitaly Mutko to announce that the budget for administration costs for the World Cup in Russia will be cut by 10% and the overall budget will be reduced by 4%.
FIFA unlikely to move 2018 World Cup
FIFA president Sepp Blatter met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi in April, and after the meeting he expressed his continued support for the 2018 World Cup.
“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,” Blatter said. “Everything is going to plan and nothing will get in the way of Russia hosting the best ever World Cup. The economic situation is not the best, but I know it will get better.”
Analysts also say its unlikely that FIFA would strip Russia of the 2018 World Cup in the current political climate. That could change if the war in Ukraine were to heat up again or Putin tries another military adventure somewhere else, but otherwise don’t expect to see FIFA moving the upcoming World Cup events scheduled for Russia or Qatar.
Boniek turned a bit bitter when he noted he would not be attending the World Cup draw in St. Petersburg this summer. “Other FA heads know my stance. I could possibly officially ask whether Fifa feels comfortable staging its biggest tournament in a country that is at war with Ukraine,” Boniek said. “But what will I gain asking that? Some papers will do interviews with me and that’s it. Does anyone really think Fifa would strip Russia of the World Cup?”