Will pol­i­tics take back seat for World Cup?

Irish Independent - - Letters & Editorial Comment -

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.

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