Ian Parsley is pretty much on the money when he remarks that England just needs ‘to get over’ its failed bid for World Cup 2018.
FIFA’s decision to award the tournament to Russia has become an opportunity for the media to air all the predictable Russophobe clichés. The startling revelation that US diplomats don’t much trust the Kremlin is sufficient pre-text for sneering references to a ‘mafia state’.
It’s not that anyone would seriously dispute that there is corruption in Russia, or ‘legal nihilism’ as President Medvedev prefers to describe it. Of course there are also a host of countries with a much better image in the west, whose problems in that regard are as bad, or worse. They tend to get a ‘by-ball’, to use football terminology, so long as they are pro-American.
The facts are that Russia is likely to stage a great World Cup, the country is an established football nation and it could not be overlooked any longer. England certainly has some excellent stadiums and an established reputation for hosting big events, but the Russian bid fulfilled much of the ’legacy’ criteria, upon which FIFA places so much value.
There will be great stadiums in Russia by 2018. There will be high speed rail and the reliability and price of Russian railways already far outstrips anything that Britain can offer. The people will also prove extremely hospitable, if my experiences are anything to go by, and if fans travel with an open mind, many will fall in love with the country.
Moscow hosted the 2008 Champions League Final, a result which for some reason I cannot remember, with a great deal of success. Red Square became the venue for an enormous celebration, visa requirements were lifted and tens of thousands of British fans travelled to Russia without serious incident.
That’s a track record which the bid team could point to.
Currently the country is celebrating FIFA’s decision and rightly so. Though I'm sure there is also an awareness that the hard work is now about to begin. A feast of football is set to take place across thirteen cities and sixteen stadiums. Fans will travel free on public transport throughout the tournament, which will, no doubt, mitigate the difficulty of covering large distances. International hotel chains are already expanding their Russian operations and, no doubt, their efforts will now be stepped up.
Handing Russia the World Cup is a good decision by FIFA, it’s an exciting decision and it gives me just seven and a half years to polish up my Russian for Northern Ireland’s trip to Yekaterinburg!