Beautiful game can still shine through
The 2018 World Cup has begun and, love it or loathe it, the competition will be unavoidable until its conclusion in the middle of July. Many will already be weary of the endless coverage, while others will have their sticker books filled, wall charts pinned up and sofa spot block-booked for the month to come.
Russia’s opening game in Moscow was the culmination of years of planning, which began well before the country was actually awarded hosting rights.
It remains to be seen, especially from a security point of view, if it has been enough.
In so many respects, the superpower still lags behind western norms, not least in human rights.
Racism and homophobic discrimination in particular remain social issues which have been pinpointed – but never properly addressed – in recent years.
President Vladimir Putin’s regime is also accused of nefarious activities unimaginable in most democracies.
The award of sports richest and most prestigious tournament to Russia and, by extension, Putin, calls into question the integrity of the football authorities.
Pele’s “beautiful game” is long gone, corrupted by power and money, but football can be a force for good.
If, through the tournament, Russia’s ills are highlighted and pressure brought to bear to enact meaningful change, the team crowned champion at the end of it all may not be the only winner.