Beau­ti­ful game can still shine through

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - COMMENT -

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.

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