It’s final countdown mode. Russia fluffed their lines against Brazil and France respectively, idiots ruining the latter match with racist chants. Many there, including journalists and friends, didn’t hear anything.
However it happened and while click bait media focus on Pogba and Dembele, it’s a world away from when OGC Nice’s schooling by Lokomotiv Moscow in the Europa League and despite nine players of colour in the visitors starting line up, not a single racist incident was recorded in the RZD Arena.
However, the Russian show trial isn’t based on facts, truth or events. Just who shouts loudest. From Syria to Salisbury, covering Russia in a sporting context getting harder.
The Skripal incident exploded into life and without hard facts, fingers pointed and diplomats were sent home. The latest Russian show trial helped distract from the meandering clown car that is Brexit.
As the UK heads towards an embarrassing second referendum where Theresa, Boris and their selection of carpetbagging ghouls say they were right all along and have gotten concessions from the EU, Russia is a perfect whipping boy.
Looking to pacify horrified citizens and distract from the shady past of an official, the Canadian Government ensured the diplomats being expelled from their land were involved in cyber warfare and discrediting the discredited World Anti Doping Agency, conveniently located in Montreal.
When expulsions were announced, it was complete deja vu. I was in England when Theresa May spoke to Parliament about how they knew that Skripal was hit by the Kremlin. And by the time I’d driven from Oxford to Luton Airport, LBC, BBC Radio 4 et al were lauding the UK as being above all that extrajudicial murder stuff and interfering in other nations etc.
I honestly thought that the mushrooms in my breakfast at Harry Ramsden’s earlier in the day had sent me on a superbly scary trip.
Kicking out diplomats is nothing new. Obama did it in summer 2016; And later that year when Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 US election. Daddy’s Boy Donald did the same last summer and in the retaliation the Moscow Shamrocks GAA Club lost a member, a regular staffer in the US Embassy in Moscow.
When Ireland sprinted to keep up with Theresa and Donald by expelling a Russian diplomat from Dublin, while ensuring paid journos were out scaremongering, the Irish Embassy staff in Moscow knew one of them would go. And thanks to Simon and Leo being good boys, the retaliation was swift. Yet another visitor to Lokomotiv Moscow with me, had a week to pack up and leave.
Facts, evidence and truth are lost right now in the Russian show trial and football is going to suffer.
Boris Johnson, or BJ as he is known to his female staff, likens the World Cup in Russia to the 1936 Olympics in Germany – knowing over 25 million Soviet perished fighting the Nazis and Nazi allies. He then deliberately ramps up rhetoric by claiming English fans needed visas for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and World Cup here.
As Donald Trump proves, the truth really doesn’t matter if you don’t care about the consequences. What has been ongoing since 2010, is grinding to a finish.
So I have to put on a good face, go on radio, tv or the stadium show and talk football and sport. I have to pretend that all is normal when it very much is not. In my day job I tell staff and students on how community is key.
That we are all the same and to treat each other with respect. I go to the stadia in the evenings or weekends to report and present, seeing oddly out-of-place foreign correspondents (for corrs) knocking about.
Sure these folks have zero interest in sports, not even in their native lands. But the gilt-edged gift of FIFA freebies and putting a mega event on the CV is priceless. One particular individual was onto me for access to clubs, even offering cash in return.
A quick read through their recent reports removed them from consideration. Lie down with mutts you arise with fleas. Yet they persist.
This past week’s UEFA Europa League match between CSKA Moscow and Arsenal being a case in point. CSKA fans can be total idiots, even the ones who pretend to be nice. Yet they were deliberately targeted by an International news agency to bump up value before the World Cup.
I have now spoken with more than 20 witnesses, including a foreign cameraman who was near the Reuters ‘witness’ and not one heard monkey chants. Foul language yes, but racist, no. The parentage of Arsenal (and CSKA) players were called into question, yet nothing that could even be misconstrued as racist. CSKA dismissed it out of hand and Arsenal likewise.
Speaking with players and club representatives from CSKA and Arsenal, I asked straight out if there had been such an incident. None believed there had been. The Daily Fail had done it’s non-level best to whip up fear beforehand, while the meeting of fans again proved more useful than anything undertaken by the politicians and journos ruling the mediawaves.
Whatever Reuters were at, it certainly wasn’t getting to the heart of the story. That two groups of fans met, got on and are more representative of their respective nations than the politicians ruling and reporters reporting.
A little over a month ago notorious welfare scrounger Willie Windsor was forbidden from yet another costly foreign junket. Soon to bring another welfare recipient into the World, the father of two is President of the English FA, without having any previous experience in the field.
BJ’s banning of the grandson of a notoriously racist Greek immigrant led to colour by numbers reaction from five other independent countries, and Australia.
Of course they’ll send their footballers, but not state officials. I did think Japan would have more sense, but the Scandinavian reaction to “some guy” telling BJ that the poison in Wiltshere was from Russia, was predictable. Iceland, Sweden and Denmark don’t want to be the next nation lined up for regime change.
So we wait and wonder. This week I’ll do two shows out at Lokomotiv, I’ll do radio, I’ll visit a couple of tv studios to tell what’s actually happening here. To report on what I’m seeing and hearing on the ground.
Yet more and more neither the Russian nor foreign media is overly interested in facts, only their version of the narrative that keeps the Russian show trial bubbling until Luzhniki welcomes us in two months time.