World Cup 2018 is Rus­sia’s turn to play ball

It is hap­pen­ing at a dif­fi­cult time for the world and in a na­tion be­set with prob­lems

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Comment -

When Saudi Ara­bia took on hosts Rus­sia at Moscow’s Luzh­niki Sta­dium on Thursday, the 80,000 fans in the stands were a tiny frac­tion of the nearly three bil­lion peo­ple around the world to whom the kick-off of the 2018 FIFA World Cup was avail­able on tele­vi­sion. For the next month or so, for lovers of the Beau­ti­ful Game, the world will ap­pear to be a hap­pier, per­haps kin­der, place. In the last edi­tion in Brazil, the Vat­i­can had called for a cease­fire in hos­til­i­ties in global trou­ble spots. Four years later, Pope Fran­cis’s na­tive Ar­gentina, led by Li­onel Messi — who may be mak­ing his fi­nal ap­pear­ance in a World Cup — is again one of the front-run­ners. Still, all the in­di­vid­ual bril­liance on the field may not take away from the fact that the Cup is hap­pen­ing at a dif­fi­cult time for the world, and that too, in Rus­sia.

Eight years ago, when Rus­sia clinched the bid to host the Cup,Vladimir Putin ex­ulted in the mo­ment. Over the next few years, the coun­try has been em­broiled in the wars in Ukraine and Syria, a mis­ad­ven­ture in Crimea, wit­nessed eco­nomic decline, faced al­le­ga­tions of in­ter­fer­ence in the US elec­tions, and held guilty for an Olympic dop­ing scan­dal. De­spite the strin­gent sanc­tions , Putin is play­ing host to the world with Rus­sia spend­ing an es­ti­mated 678 bil­lion rubles on projects for the tour­na­ment, 70% of which is es­ti­mated to have come from tax­pay­ers.

The Cup mov­ing to Rus­sia high­lights its foray into new ter­ri­to­ries. In 2002, Asia got its first Cup when Ja­pan and South Korea hosted . In 2010, it graced the African con­ti­nent with the Bafana Bafana play­ing hosts. This year’s tour­na­ment at a time when Rus­sia is back in geopo­lit­i­cal fo­cus, will be fol­lowed by the Cup mak­ing both -- its maiden foray to West Asia and a state­ment loaded with po­lit­i­cal un­der­tones. The pun­dits are back­ing Brazil, Ger­many and France. But don’t count out Spain and Ar­gentina, with Bel­gium this year’s dark horses. May the best team win!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.