Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the process of playing the game of football is one that should not be associated with politics. While this is what is considered ideal, it is not absolutely obtainable especially when a nation such as Russia is involved. Going by the just concluded world cup, it can be concluded that the world cup has a political side to it. And this political side is definitely in Russia’s favour.
It was indeed a sensible step made by the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin in ensuring that his country, Russia, became host of the 2018 FIFA world cup. While this is an achievement for President Putin, it is much more than that. Although football is completely apolitical, the fact that Russia was able to get the right to host the world cup and to also host it successfully comes with a lot of political benefits.
In as much as there are quite a number of benefits that Russia stands to enjoy politically, some are of higher importance than others. Let’s take a look at some of the political benefits of hosting the just concluded FIFA world cup.
The World Cup put Russia in a Different Light
Every one that was politically inclined in the late 1980s when the Soviet Union was collapsing can attest to the fact that it was not a country that was loved by many. Well about three decades after the era of the Soviet Union, present day Russia is still being regarded as the collapsed Soviet Union. While there could be lots of reasons for this, the media has a strong role to play in this comparison. Whilst it remains absolutely unconfirmed if present day Russia is anything like the collapsed Soviet Union, recent happenings appear to portray present day Russia in a different light. Regardless of this, a lot of people have decided to stick to the image of Russia that is being portrayed by the media.
This gathering of the world at the just concluded FIFA world cup was the first period that the world will be converging in Russia since the break out of the cold war that started not too long after Sochi winter Olympics ended. The war began after the Western supported urban terrorist movement of “EuroMaidan” successfully overthrew the appropriate democratically appointed government of Ukraine. Well, after a long while of the absence of citizens of other countries in Russia, the world cup has brought people from different nations to Russia. In as much as it is believed that the reason a lot of people that visited Russia did so because of the world cup, that was not the only reason why Russia got a lot of visitors over the period of a month. One other reason why a lot of people visited Russia was because the world cup gave them an opportunity to have a first-hand view, as well as experience of what Russia really is like.
Russia has indeed made a lot of progress since the collapse of the Soviet Union over 25 years ago. Although a couple of the challenges that characterized the Soviet Union’s communist reign are still in existence, they will not be around for much longer. The reason is the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin has openly spoken about the communist issues and has made a pledge to ensure that they are fixed in his fourth and last term in office. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the general condition of Russia has gotten much better since President Putin came into power 18 years ago. As a result of this, he appeared willing to showcase his progress to the rest of the world and one way to make this happen is through the world cup. Indeed, Russia has really achieved a lot as a country since the collapse of the Soviet Union, in addition to this, the world had a lot of surprises waiting for them at the world cup. One of these many surprises was the difference between present day Russia in reality and the representation of Russia by the western media. The world cup was attended by over two million football lovers from every part of the world. These football lovers did not only get to see what Russia really is like at the moment, they will also share their perception of Russia through social media with friends and family.
This is one thing that Russia has been looking out for because it will go a long way to reverse the perception that people from other parts of the world have about Russia. To a lot of folks from other parts of the world, Russia is a country that is occupied by poor and angry people that are being ruled by a tyrant that has a reputation for killing its spies and shooting down airliners with impunity. In as much as the perception that a lot of countries have about Russia is absolutely wrong, it has to some extent worked in Russia’s favour. Now you might ask how it worked in Russia’s favour. Well, the simple truth is; viewing Russia like a bad country has driven fear into the hearts of many countries , most especially countries that are very close to it. This has made a lot of citizens from these countries to avoid paying Russia a visit. Well, in as much as the perception that a lot of people had about Russia before the world cup was wrong and had favoured the Russians in some ways, all that has changed. With the just concluded world cup, it is certain that a lot of people have discovered that Russia is not an impoverished nation and is not occupied by poor and angry individuals. On the other hand, Russia is a rich country that is occupied to rich, open minded people that reside in a country with a working democracy. Although it is believed that a lot of influential people from other parts of Europe do not want the world to see Russia for what it really is, it is a little too late right now as Russia has successfully hosted the world cup which includes hosting people from all over the world for about a month.
As stated earlier, football is supposed to be a hundred percent apolitical, regardless of that, hosting the world cup has a lot of political sides to it. As a result of the fact that Russia successfully played host to a lot of countries, security was of utmost importance. Although Russia has what is required to ensure that everyone that attended the world cup was safe, it had to accept security tips from other countries which had their citizens in the world cup. Now, the fact that a lot of countries were very concerned about the security of their citizens implied that they were willing to work with Russian security agents to ensure that their citizens were safe. Although this appears to be something that is very normal, it actually is a break from the norm. Since the inception of the cold war in 2014, lots of European nations have cut of security ties with Russia. Well, regardless of the fact that a lot of countries are no longer interested in having anything to do with Russian security, as a result of the world cup, they really had no choice as the lives of their citizens were obviously of great importance.
Come to think of it, the United Kingdom is one country that is certain that will not tell Russia about a plan by terrorists to invade the stadium. However, as a result of the presence of its citizens in the world cup, it was going to have no choice but to inform the Russian security of any suspicious plan to attack an event at the world cup.
Also, moving away from security, a lot of embassies got regular details about the many events which were supposed to take place at the world cup. With this movement, individuals that had gone to Russia for the purpose of the world cup could easily each out to their embassies to get the latest plan of events and how they could take full advantage of them.
Now, it appears that a lot of the renewed diplomatic, as well as security ties between Russia and other countries will end in the World cup, there is a huge likelihood that these ties will continue for a long time after the world cup. As a matter of fact, these ties might go on until there is another reason for all diplomatic and security ties between Russia and other countries, especially countries in the west to be severed.
The World cup created an Avenue for Putin to meet with different World Leaders
Prior to the start of the world cup, President Putin made it known that he would be having meetings with the leaders of nations that would be attending the world cup Opening ceremony. In addition to meeting with all the leaders of nations that would be attending the world Cup Opening Ceremony, President Putin would also be meeting with other leaders of nations that would be attending the world cup after the opening ceremony to watch their countries play. In as much as a lot of the meetings that Putin had with various world leaders while the world cup lasted was just for the sake of courtesy, a couple of them are very politically significant and would not have taken place if the FIFA 2018 World Cup had not been hosted in Russia.
Of all the meetings that President Putin held with various world leaders that visited Russia for the purpose of the world cup, his meeting with the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince was perhaps the most significant and is expected to lead to bigger things in the nearest future.