Saturday 14 September 2013

Qatar controversy overshadows Russia 2018 World Cup disputes

With the footballing world's eyes trained on the debate over on whether Qatar can realistically host a summer World Cup, governing body FIFA is hurtling towards the preceding tournament in Russia which could prove just as controversial.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko has
proved a divisive figure
Russia's selection as hosts for the 2018 tournament was seen has the lesser of two evils by the British media when England were spurned in 2010. The nation's history within the sport and its national team's excellent run to the semi-finals of Euro 2008 gave it a credence among observers. 

However, outside perceptions that two nations with significant pots of national cash had bought both events were widespread. Moreover, traditional shrouds of secrecy and mistrust between the West and Russia re-emerged as tempers ran high. 

Now, with the world questioning Qatar's ability to either host fans in sweltering summer heat or disrupt the international football calendar through a winter cup, Russia is quietly putting its plans in place. These include the erection of a number of swashbuckling asymmetric stadia at great expense

However, one man appears determined to ensure the scepticism that still surrounds the Russian game remains - Vitaly Mutko.

The country's sports minister and FIFA executive committee member has proved a controversial figure for some time. Perhaps most infamously, he was alleged to have bought 97 breakfasts in racking up a $4,500 bill in expenses while accompanying the Russian team to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada in 2010. 

When Russia were awarded the World Cup, Mutko - then president of the Russian Football Union - lashed out at English allegations of corruption in Russian football with similar counter comments. He later qualified that statement: "I meant that if you dig deeply you find corruption in any country."  

In recent months, Mutko has been at the centre of two further whirlwinds. In July, an amendment to existing laws allowed Mutko's Government to put rules in place which allow "foreign nationals and stateless persons" to be employed by official FIFA partners, effectively paving the way for illegal immigrants to be employed on longer working hours with few rights by sponsors and contractors. 

Local civil right site The Russian Reader says: "We cannot help noticing that all these measures have been proposed and ratified by the same government that is literally right now organising actual raids on migrants and imprisoning them in special camps in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, Volgograd, Samara, Rostov-on-Don, and Kaliningrad." It adds: "Does this mean that the right hand of the Russian state doesn’t know what the left hand is doing? Not in the least. All the above-named cities are hosting the 2018 World Cup."

Add to this the controversy over Russia's new law which prevent promoting homosexuality to minors and its credibility in hosting football's premier competition is further blurred. Mutko called on international observers to "calm down" after controversial comments made by Russian Olympics pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and claimed 'gay propaganda' had been whipped up in the media. 

Russia host the Winter Sochi Olympics next February and Mutko has assured visitors and athletes will have their rights and freedoms respected. 

Perhaps in reality the still resolutely macho nature of football fandom means a overt promotion of homosexual rights in 2018 is unlikely. However, allowing freedom of expression for fans in host countries remains vital if FIFA is to rescue its tattered reputation. 

While the world wonders whether a Qatari World Cup will ever happen, the shrapnel left by the Iron Curtain threatens to drive another rift between the West and the rest. 

1 comment:

  1. World Cup 2018 and World Cup 2022 will going to be great games and preparations because two new and big countries are going to represent the world cups. Russian minister has already proved what Russia can do to arrange world cup