The World Cup’s big match: politics v sport

Mother Russia: The 2018 World Cup poster, analysed for hidden messages.

Should you enjoy this World Cup? The games will be fun, but some worry that Russia is a bad choice of host. The country hopes that the tournament will distract from its many problems.

What’s happening

The 21st Fifa World Cup has begun. Russia, the host nation, kicked things off with a 5-0 win against Saudi Arabia. Fans are excited, but behind the scenes things are tense. This is being called the most political World Cup of all time. Here are five reasons for the controversy.

Find out more

1/ Racism. Russian fans are notorious for their racist chants. England footballer Danny Rose, who is black, has told his family not to come to Russia.

2/ Hooliganism. Violent fans are a problem in Russia, but the government is cracking down. Known hooligans have been banned from games.

3/ Corruption. Fifa cleared Russia of corruption in its World Cup bid. Yet many still think that the country got the tournament dishonestly.

4/ Repression. Russia is not a very free country. In the recent election, President Vladimir Putin’s main opponent was banned from running.

5/ Wars. In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine. It is also accused of cyberwar: messing with the computer and social media systems of Western nations.

Is it wrong to enjoy this World Cup?

Some say…

Yes. The World Cup is supposed to make Putin look good. Yet his government picks fights left and right, breaks all the rules of fair play, and denies its own people basic freedoms. It does not deserve the honour of hosting. British officials, who accuse Russia of trying to kill an ex-spy on its soil, are boycotting the tournament. We should too.

Others think…

Just forget about politics for a while. Yes, Russia does bad things — but so do many countries, companies and people. If we boycotted everything that is a bit dodgy, there would not be much left to do. The great thing about sport is that it can bring people together and spread joy. Watch as much as you can, and don’t feel bad.

You Decide

  1. Should Russia have been allowed to host the 2018 World Cup?


  1. List five reasons why you think the World Cup is so popular. Compare your choices with those of your classmates.

Some People Say...

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.”

Michael Jordan

What do you think?

Word Watch

Major public disagreement.
Famous for a bad reason.
Hooligans are violent troublemakers, often linked to a gang or sport.
A number of countries “bid”, or apply, to host each World Cup. Fifa chooses the winner.
Stopping something by force. A “repressive” government is one that prevents its people from doing many things.


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