Monday, 11 August 2014

No justification for World Cup boycott

David McCardle, at the ever stimulating Futbolgrad, asks whether western countries should boycott the 2018 World Cup, which is due to be played in Russia.  He writes quite a complicated article, arguing that the competition is likely to cause popular protests against Vladimir Putin’s regime.

I’m unsure about how realistic that notion is.  The Sochi Winter Olympics were outrageously expensive, but didn’t prompt threatening demonstrations and Russia is not Brazil.  A stronger argument for refusing to boycott the Russian World Cup is simply that a boycott would be wrong.

So far the most prominent voices suggesting such action are either chauvinist American politicians, like John McCain, or English people who still harbour hopes that the tournament will be moved to England.

Ever since the decision was taken to stage football’s greatest spectacle in Russia there has been whinging in the UK media.  This is inspired, I suspect not by humanitarian concerns, but rather by resentment that England’s bid was not successful.

The fact that Russia is now embroiled in a Ukrainian civil war promoted by western money has no moral bearing on whether the competition should be held in that country.  Unlike Qatar, it is a country with a long football tradition.  It has also never staged the tournament before and it is prepared to invest hefty sums of money to ensure success.

Come 2018 visa restrictions will be waived and supporters heading to Russia will have a wonderful time.  There is no call to boycott the Russian World Cup and there is certainly no justification for FIFA to consider a change of host.  

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