Football meets politics in Russia’s World Cup

Pioneers: Russia is the first Eastern European country to host the World Cup.

Will the World Cup ease tensions between Russia and the world? Russia’s image has been stained by wars, doping and hooliganism. The tournament, which starts on Thursday, may change things.

What’s happening

This World Cup will be one of the most controversial sporting events in history. Russia, the host, is accused of launching wars, messing with other countries’ elections and more. In response, charities and European politicians have called on world leaders to boycott the tournament.

Find out more

When Russia was awarded the World Cup in 2010, it was on fairly good terms with the world. How times have changed.

Russia and the West have clashed in wars in Syria and Ukraine, and over the attempted murder of a Russian ex-spy in the UK. Russia is accused of trying to influence politics in the UK and the US. The country’s athletes were banned from the Olympics after the government was found to have doped them.

Russian football fans also have a reputation for hooliganism. Yet the government is keen to stop violence from breaking out at the World Cup. President Vladimir Putin wants to make Russia look like a modern, organised country.

Jules Rimet, who founded the World Cup, believed that sport can unite the world. Will this tournament do that?

Some say…

Dream on. Back in 2010, Putin might have hoped that the World Cup would help him charm other countries. He has clearly lost interest in doing that. Instead, the tournament will be very tense; the best-case scenario is that we get through it without violence. The distrust between Russia and the world is too deep to be solved by a few football games.

Others think…

Think again. Things were worse during the Cold War, when Russia and the US boycotted each other’s Olympics. Sporting events can make a huge difference: North and South Korea began talking after the latter’s Olympics. Fans travelling to Russia will see that it is just a country like any other, not a monster. Things can only get better after that.

You Decide

  1. Should the England team boycott the World Cup?


  1. Design a poster encouraging people to visit Russia for the 2018 World Cup.

Some People Say...

“Politics should not interfere with sports.”

Vladimir Putin

What do you think?

Word Watch

Creating a lot of public disagreement.
Protest something by refusing to buy or participate in it.
When an athlete takes drugs in order to perform better, they are said to “dope”.
Hooligans are violent troublemakers, often linked to a gang or sport.
Cold War
(1945-90) A period of high tension between Western countries and the Soviet Union, led by Russia.


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