Will politics take back seat for World Cup?
THE hunger of football fans can finally be sated as the moment they have been licking their lips for has finally arrived with the 21st World Cup kicking off in Moscow. The appetite for the event, watched by some three billion people last time around, is keener than ever. One of the most memorable things about World Cup 2014 was Luis Suarez’s explanation as to how he got the bit between his teeth in tackling Italian Giorgio Chiellini: “I lost my balance, making my body unstable and falling on top of my opponent. At that moment I hit my face against the player leaving a small bruise on my cheek and a strong pain in my teeth.”
Chiellini saw it differently, never having seen himself as part of the menu.
It is all a lot more serious than that for President Putin. Although not personally a football fan, he led the 2010 bid, driving a massive lobbying exercise to bring the tournament to Russia. He has spent $12bn (€10.3bn) getting ready for the event and will be hoping the world can forget about politics for a month.
A big ask given the recent chemical attack on a Russian double agent and his daughter in Salisbury. Even so, Mr Putin has a chance to score big diplomatically, proving his Russia really is open to all.
Iceland (with just 334,000 inhabitants) and Panama have qualified for their first ever World Cup. Sadly, the Boys in Green will have to watch from afar. Back on the Old Sod, the Green Army is confined to barracks. That is not to say there will not be plenty to savour in the 64 matches that lie ahead.