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Where politics disunites, football unites

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“In praise of football” would have been the most appropriate heading of this reflection.However, the realisation of the global symbolism of today’s meeting in Helsinki, Finland of two great world leaders of Russia and the United States of America, compelled a deeper introspection of the thematic area. There are obviously four dominant issues that would play out in any conversation between the world powers from the East and West and these issues revolve around such phenomenal nations of China, Britain in addition to the duo of Russia and the United States of America.

Whereas the United States under the current political formation headed by the Republican Donald Trump, is at war with China on issues of trades, the British and Russian political divides are torn apart by the diplomatic warfare that escalated with the recent poisoning of the double agent and his daughter somewhere inside of the United Kingdom.  A logical fallout from that initial hullabaloo over the suspected Russian poisoning gambit inside of UK is that someone has actually died from the poisoning.

In fact, the media in the USA has linked the spies from Russia with both the poisoning incident in Britain and the attempted hacking into the campaign data of the democrats in the USA during the last election. It would be recalled that Hilary Clinton and his campaign team have been up in arms against the current President of USA over suspected infiltration of the Russia through cybercrime during the campaigns that heralded the election. Many top appointees of Donald Trump have fallen by the way side as a result of an independent probe of this Russian nexus in the election that took place that brought in the current political family that run the White House. So, the twists and turns in all of these controversies about the Russian have become expanded to involve an incident that happened in the United Kingdom in which the spies affiliated to President Vladimir Putin are the suspects. 

This interesting nexus constituted the kernel of the news report done by the New York Times recently (exactly on July 15th 2018).According to The New York Times, the same Russian military intelligence service now accused of disrupting the 2016 presidential election in America may also be responsible for the nerve agent attack in Britain against a former Russian spy — an audacious poisoning that led to a geopolitical confrontation this spring between Moscow and the West. The newspaper reported that the British investigators believe the March 4 attack on the former spy, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, was most probably carried out by current or former agents of the service, known as the G.R.U., who were sent to his home in southern England, according to one British official, one American official and one former American official familiar with the inquiry, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.

New York Times reports that British officials are now closing in on identifying the individuals they believe carried out the operation, said the former American official. At the same time, investigators have not ruled out the possibility that another Russian intelligence agency, or a privatized spinoff, could be responsible. Recall that President Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia held a much scrutinised meeting on Monday, July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland. 

New York Times stayed that for months, Mr. Trump has angrily belittled the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.  Then again the newspaper known for being hyper critical of the Trump’s administration and his style had recalled with relish that on Friday last Weekend, the Justice Department announced a bombshell indictment of 12 G.R.U. officers in the hacking of internal communications of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign. However, so far Trump hasn’t directly been linked as a beneficiary of the spy job carried out by Russia in the wake of the heated campaigns in the year 2016 Presidential election in the World’s strongest democracy. 

Ironically, the diplomatic verbal warfare between Britain and Russia escalated only few days to the commencement of the just ended world cup which was hosted by Russia. Understandably, football may have mediated a softer approach at using diplomacy to resolve hot political discord.  In the wake of the poisoning incident in Britain, the British government successfully lobbied the European Union and the United States on the need to take steps to sanction Russia for committing what is now regarded by Theresa May of Britain as an act of aggression by Russia against the United Kingdom.

Several nations in the European Union were sympathetic to the British view point and followed this sympathy with numerous diplomatic expulsions. Donald Trump shocked his pessimistic critics when his administration sacked 60 Russian spies away from USA over the poisoning case in Great Britain. Also, Britain ruled out any top level participation of the World cup in Russia by her politicians as a way of remonstrating with Vladimir Putin over the indiscretion of attacking persons within the borders of the UK.

At a point before the world cup in Russia, the media went to town with stories of possible security threats during the World cup. Yours faithfully was in the United Kingdom for a two-weeks holiday just before the World cup and so I followed up the media reportage of these fears and apprehensions that if Russia can export poisonous chemicals to hunt down political opponents of the powerful Russian leader it therefore follows that football fans are not safe in Russia during the mundial. There were existential fears that some nations that qualified to participate in the soccer fiesta in Russia would withdraw but as hours turned to days, it became clear that no team will risk the sanction by FIFA to play political gambling with football which is generally viewed as being higher in value than mere mundane politics. 

All the teams from the around the world that qualified indeed participated. Even top leaders of European politics whose national teams qualified participated including the just dethroned holders- Germany. A full list of qualifiers for the 21st FIFA World Cup can be found below:
UEFA (EUROPE) Qualified: Russia (host), Belgium, Germany, England, Spain, Poland, Iceland, Serbia, France, Portugal, Switzerland, Croatia, Sweden, Denmark. Among the Eliminated: Czech Republic, Norway, Israel, Hungary, Turkey, Ukraine, Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Ireland; AFC (ASIA) Qualified: Iran, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Australia. Among the Eliminated: Uzbekistan, China, United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Thailand, Qatar, Syria; CAF (AFRICA) Qualified: Nigeria, Egypt, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco. Among the Eliminated: Cameroun, Algeria, Guinea, Libya, Congo, Zambia, Uganda, Ghana, South Africa; CONCACAF (NORTH AMERICA) Qualified: Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama. Among the Eliminated: United States, Canada, Honduras, El Salvador, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti, Jamaica, Guatemala; CONMEBOL (SOUTH AMERICA) Qualified: Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Peru. Among the Eliminated: Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay.
To be continued tomorrow.
Onwubiko is head, Human Rights Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).


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