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Where politics disunites, football unites – Part 2



At the end of this year’s mundial, the general opinions of most observers is that the Russians delivered to the world one of the best World Cup tournaments in history. Vladimir Putin has scored diplomatic goal by staging one of the most hospitable soccer fiestas of modern times. Even stranded fans from Nigeria are been airlifted courtesy of a Russian non-governmental organisation. To underscore the feat attained by staging the event, Russian football has dramatically gained global repute because of the fantastic standards of participation the players displayed which saw them crossing to a quarter dial mileage which even football giants like Germany and Argentina couldn’t attain.

In addition to the phenomenal performance of Russian soccer team, Mr. Gianni Infantino, the president of federation of international football (FIFA) was full of praises for Russia.

Speaking at FIFA’s closing press conference of the four-week cup, the FIFA president said: “For a couple of years, I was saying this would be the best world cup ever, today I can say it with more conviction because I lived it and you lived it. It is the best World Cup ever.” Also, British fans who had expressed anxieties over security concerns regarding the World Cup started trooping into watch the competition when news reached them that contrary to the insinuations in the political firmaments of Britain that there could be security concerns, the World Cup in Russia went on for four weeks without a single violence. Football has indeed successfully deflated the atmospheres of fears and tensions that were generated by the indiscretion of the Russian security to embark on the deadly assignment of poisoning a big enemy of the Russian leader who has in any event denied involvement.

But the fall out has also denied the owner of Chelsea FC of his right of residency because of his friendship with Putin. British home office failed to renew the five year residency of the Russian Oligarch who owns Chelsea FC of England and has considerable huge assets inside of Great Britain.  But today, President Putin has put on a smiling face of a great football organizer even as he stepped into a hotly expected meeting with the American President.

The fact that the World Cup was a big success and the physical presence of the French leader Mr. Emmanuel Macron at the finals of the mundial which his country France won, has also added more distinguished medals of diplomatic honour for the Russian leader who would meet the United States leader over several global issues including international security, climate change and certainly the British angle on the Russian connection to the poisoning in Britain would certainly come up.

Incidentally, China which has an ongoing trade war with Trump’s administration did not qualify for the just ended World cup but statistically, Chinese turned up in great numbers to watch most of the matches in Russia.

It is educative to let us know that the Chinese league is rich and attractive to many talented footballers. It would however seem that the logical consequences of the successes recorded at the Russian hosted World cup has started to emerge with Donald Trump firing the first welcoming salvo for Putin.

Mr. Trump took to twitter to lay the blame for the rocky relationship with Russia not with Moscow, but with Washington. (

“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of United States’ foolishness and stupidity and now the Rigged Witch Hunt,” he said referring to U.S. special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged Russian meddling into U.S. elections.

In another tweet he said he was looking forward to meeting Mr. Putin and complained he would not get enough credit if the summit was a success. “Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years I would return to criticism that it wasn’t good enough,” he said.

A notable non-qualifier to the mundial in Russia is the USA and it would have been interesting if the national team of the United States of America had participated to glamourize the ongoing global conversations by Britain, Russia and the USA. Had an unlikely scenario of USA or England reaching the finals against Russia happened in Russia 2018, perhaps the world would have seen President Trump participating live in Russia or Theresa May attending to cheer on their respective teams irrespective of the ongoing political war fare between and amongst them.  Closer home, this writer wishes to ask the incompetent persons running the nation’s sports ministry to leave the Nigerian football federation alone to save Nigeria from the imminent hammer from FIFA.

A way out is for President Buhari to name Mr. Chris Giwa as the minister of state (youth development) so he could be politically settled to remove his over ambitious eyes from the glass house so FIFA does not suspend us from participating in football which is the only uniting phenomenon left in our tattered; politically distorted and disunited Nigeria. This footballing task is urgent and please someone with the influence within the unelected cabal running Aso Rock should lobby them to compel Muhammadu Buhari to save our football.

Onwubiko is head, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

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