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Soccer During War

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  • #76
    Ukrainian Protesters Call For Boycott Of FIFA World Cup In Russia
    Ukrainians in Kyiv protest against the Russia World Cup event.

    A small demonstration was held on June 14 outside the European Union representative's office in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, calling for a boycott of the FIFA World Cup in Russia.

    Protesters cited Russian aggression against Ukraine and drew particular attention to the hunger strike by Ukrainian director Oleh Sentsov, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence in Russia on terror charges widely condemned as politically motivated.

    "A blood-soaked championship is taking place in Russia. Sentsov's hunger strike has lasted for a month," one female protester told an RFE/RL camera crew as she drew a sign in chalk on the sidewalk where the protest was staged.

    "It's four years since they shot down a [Malaysian Airlines plane]. The war is continuing. Russia is now hosting delegations from European countries at the football championship, with enormous pathos, as if nothing [else] was happening in the world, as if it were not a country which has locked up an enormous number of Ukrainian political prisoners," she said.

    Among European countries, only Britain and Ukraine are boycotting the World Cup, although Britain's soccer team and fans are participating in the games.

    But even as the protest was occurring in Kyiv, the European Parliament overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling on Russia to "immediately and unconditionally" release Sentsov and other Ukrainian citizens it said were "illegally detained."

    Sentsov was arrested in Crimea in 2014, after Russia seized the Ukrainian region. He has been on hunger strike in a Russian prison in the far-northern Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Region since May 14.

    Sentsov is demanding that Russia release 64 Ukrainian citizens he considers political prisoners.

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • #77
      No Sex With Foreigners During World Cup, Russian Lawmaker Warns
      RADIO FREE EUROPE Carl Schreck June 13, 2018 12:21 GMT

      A senior Russian lawmaker overseeing family-related issues has some advice for fellow Russian women during the World Cup: Don't have sex with foreign men.

      And should they really feel the need, better to find a partner of the same race.

      The remarks by Tamara Pletnyova to a Moscow radio station on June 13 came a day before world soccer's centerpiece tournament was set to kick off in several Russian cities -- a month-long event that hundreds of thousands of foreign fans are expected to attend.

      In an interview with Govorit Moskva radio, Pletnyova, chairwoman of the Family, Women, and Children Affairs Committee in the lower house of parliament, warned of a possible rise in the number of single mothers.

      "These children suffer and have suffered, even since Soviet times," she told the station.

      "These children suffer and have suffered, even since Soviet times," she said in comments published by Govorit Moskva. Audio of the interview could not immediately be located on the radio station's website.

      She also suggested that should a Russian woman get pregnant, it would be better if the father of the child was "of the same race."

      "If it's another race, then it's even worse," Pletnyova, a member of the Communist Party, said. "We should give birth to our own children. I'm not a nationalist, but nonetheless. I know that the children suffer as well, and then they are abandoned and stay here with the mother."

      She added that, even if Russian women get married to their foreign partners, they could end up living abroad with their spouses and have no idea how to return home.

      "Then they come to me at the committee and cry that the child was taken away, removed, and so forth. I would like people to get married based on love in our country, regardless of which ethnicity, [to] Russian citizens who would build a good family, live in harmony, have children, and raise them."

      'Acute Demographic Situation'

      Russia's state statistics service said in January that the country's birthrate fell 10.7 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year. It was the third consecutive year that a decline in the number of births was registered.

      President Vladimir Putin in November warned of an "acute demographic situation in Russia."

      Tatyana Kosareva, a spokeswoman for Pletynova, told RFE/RL by telephone on June 13 that she was unaware of the lawmaker's remarks during the radio interview and could not immediately comment.

      Kosareva later replied to an e-mailed inquiry that included a link to the interview.

      "No comment," she wrote in an e-mail.

      Pletnyova is no stranger to controversial statements.

      In March, she expressed support for comments by Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament, in which he told female journalists who cover the legislature to change jobs if they face sexual harassment from lawmakers.

      "I would like to say that these girl journalists should look more decent, put clothes on themselves when entering a state building, instead of having their belly buttons naked," Pletnyova said in an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio. "Volodin is right and I fully support him. If they are scared and are offended, they should not come here."

      Volodin's remarks followed sexual harassment accusations made by female journalists against senior Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky.

      æ, !

      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • #78
        Hunger Strike Creates Unwanted Backdrop for Russia During World Cup Saturday, 16 June 2018
        A praised Ukrainian film director imprisoned in Russia has been turning down food for a month, attracting international support.
        World Cup: Mystery over empty seats
        Duration: 00:34s - Published: about 21 hours ago

        The World Cup is barely two days old and football's governing body FIFA is already having to field questions about poor stadium attendances.

        As Egypt and Uruguay kicked off, the eye was immediately drawn to the hundreds of empty, orange seats spread around the Arena.

        FIFA say that the match had been close to a sellout but had no explanation as to why fans who bought those tickets hadn't turned up..
        FIFA World Cup 2018: Organising body to investigate empty seats at Yekaterinburg during Uruguay's win over Egypt
        Agence France-Presse Jun 15, 2018 20:34:24 IST

        Moscow: FIFA will be investigating why Egypt and Uruguay were playing in front of thousands of empty seats at their World Cup match in Yekaterinburg on Friday.

        There were rows of empty orange seats at the freshly rebuilt arena in the industrial city, situated in the Ural Mountains. FIFA said nearly all the available tickets had been sold and it was investigating why there were so many no-shows.

        The two soaring temporary seating sections at either end of the pitch appeared to be almost completely full, with one dominated by Egyptian fans and the other by the Uruguayans. The seats are technically only supposed to be sold to Russian nationals.

        "We can confirm that 32,278 tickets have been allocated for the match between Egypt and Uruguay in Yekaterinburg. The FIFA World Cup stadium capacity is 33,061," a spokesman for the football's world governing body told AFP.

        "The fact that the actual attendance doesn't reflect the amount of allocated tickets can be due to different factors, which FIFA is currently investigating."

        FIFA has allocated about 2.5 million tickets to the month-long showpiece, with Russian organisers saying that nearly all the tickets have already been sold. Russians accounted for 46 percent of ticket sales, with the United States buying nearly 90,000.
        Updated Date: Jun 15, 2018 20:34 PM

        æ, !

        Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


        • #79
          ATLANTIC COUNCIL Owen Daniels June 14, 2018
          Political Football: The World Cup’s Middle East Challengers

          The author and political thinker George Orwell was many things, but a soccer fan he was not.

          In an essay titled “The Sporting Spirit,” written in 1945 during then-Soviet soccer club Dynamo Moscow’s Cold War British tour, Orwell called soccer “a game in which everyone gets hurt and every nation has its own style of play which seems unfair to foreigners.”

          He then extrapolated that sport “is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules, and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.” Orwell recognized the political symbolism inherent in sport and resented it for being one of many drivers of the nationalism fueling international rivalry.

          Today’s fans might disagree with Orwell’s joyless characterization of sport as “an unfailing cause of ill-will,” but there is no denying that this World Cup, set in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, is politically charged. For the teams hailing from the Middle East, geopolitical rivalry and international relations undergird the action playing out on the field. The politics mirror the game itself, with frustrating ebbs and hopeful flows that leave observers on the edge of their seats.

          Saudi Arabia enters the tournament, which started on June 14, as the lowest-ranked qualifying seed at sixty-seventh in the world (though hosts Russia, who automatically qualify, are ranked seventieth). Accordingly, Saudi Arabia’s off-field antics have been as notable as its Green Falcons’ on-field efforts.

          Developments within the arena have been relatively positive, politically speaking. Since 2017, Saudi Arabia has allowed women to attend soccer games within its borders as a part of its Vision 2030 socioeconomic reforms. This move deserves more scrutiny in the context of recent arrests of female activists but, for now, it remains a small, yet notable, step toward new rights for Saudi women.

          Saudi Arabia has also used soccer as a diplomatic tool to help restore relations with neighboring Iraq, where the two countries’ national teams played the first international exhibition match in the country since 1990. The Green Falcons’ 4-1 defeat at the hands of their hosts was overshadowed by the symbolism of the predominantly Sunni and Shia nations meeting on the field in Basra, a major Shia hub in Iraq’s south; this is especially remarkable given Saudi Arabia had only reopened its embassy in Iraq after twenty-six years in 2016. Saudi King Salman’s offer to build on the game’s success by constructing a 135,000-seat stadium in Baghdad indicates that soccer will play a public role in Saudi Arabia’s soft power push against Iranian influence in Iraq.

          Political dynamics outside the stadium, however, have proven more complicated to assess. Qatari-owned beIN Media, which holds the World Cup broadcasting rights throughout the Middle East, accused the Saudis of illegally broadcasting “premium live sports content stolen from beIN and other broadcasters” following the controversial blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt beginning in 2017. FIFA-brokered negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar failed to produce a $35-million broadcasting agreement for Saudi TV providers to carry games. As a result, millions of Saudis will likely be forced to illegally stream the matches from Russia.

          Saudi-Qatari tension is not limited to this World Cup, though. Since the Gulf crisis started, officials from the blockading countries have called on Qatar to renounce its 2022 World Cup hosting duties, which have been marred by charges of corruption and violations of workers’ rights. The Saudis also recently tried and failed to convince FIFA, the international football federation, to hasten expansion of the tournament field from thirty-two to forty-eight teams in time for the Qatar World Cup, a move scheduled for 2026 that would have stretched Qatar’s hosting capacity and forced games to be held in Saudi Arabia and other neighboring states. The Saudis were successful, however, in creating their own FIFA voting bloc to support a North American 2026 hosting bid over Morocco, which was unsuccessfully backed by Qatar.

          On the Persian side of the Gulf, Iran may be the strongest of all the Middle East’s contenders. Team Melli swept through its qualifying group, finishing with a win-loss record second only to Brazil. Iran alone of this year’s Middle East challengers also has the experience of having appeared in the 2014 World Cup.

          But, in addition to facing stiff competition in Russia from Group B powers Spain and Portugal, reimposed sanctions have thrown a spanner in the works for Iran. US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—prompted a number of international corporations to withdraw trade and investment from Iran, and last week Nike announced that it would no longer be providing cleats to Iran’s national team for fear of violating sanctions. Experts have cited a lack of sanctions waivers for US-origin clothes exported to Iran, though Nike confusingly provided the team’s cleats under Obama administration sanctions in 2014.

          Economic sanctions have impacted the Iranian team’s gear, travel, warm-up matches, and even payment in the past, and Iran arrived the earliest to Russia to take advantage of superior training facilities. As political tensions with the United States remain high and economic uncertainty prevails in Iran, the national team will likely garner sympathy from international fans and one might expect reminders that Iran’s first and only World Cup win came against the United States in 1998.

          Compared to the geopolitical intrigue of the Saudi and Iranian stories, Egypt’s soccer politics are decidedly domestic. They also happen to be centered on one man: Mohamed Salah, Egypt’s star and great hope for advancing in the tournament.

          Salah set England’s Premier League alight this past season, scoring forty-four goals in all competitions and setting a league single-season scoring record to lead his Liverpool team to the UEFA Champions League final. Salah’s statistically triumphant season, which grabbed headlines and made highlights, catapulted him to international stardom. But nowhere did Salah’s amazing season resonate as strongly as in his native Egypt. His face adorns buildings around the country, and one newspaper bestowed upon him the title of Egypt’s “fourth pyramid.”

          However, Salah’s success story has become something of a domestic political Rorschach test. Over one million Egyptians wrote in Salah’s name on their ballots in a presidential election earlier this year, simultaneously highlighting his popularity and the perceived futility of voters’ ballots under Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Though not a new tactic, the move left over seven percent of Egyptian ballots invalid.

          Despite his inadvertent role in this symbolic act of protest, some commentators have noted that Salah has been slow to speak out against the Sisi regime’s use of his image and the country’s stifling political situation in general. This week, he was almost quite literally dragged into a photo op with Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman head of Russia’s Chechen Republic, as the Egyptian team controversially trained for the tournament in Grozny. His silence resonates in a country where ultra fans of Egypt’s club teams are politically outspoken and have a history of participating in protests and deadly clashes against regime security forces.

          Even though he remains reticent to speak out explicitly on political manners, Salah serves as an important role model in Egypt and beyond. He has been praised as a religious and cultural ambassador to the United Kingdom, openly sharing his Muslim faith in a country that has historically struggled with tolerance in the sport (one lighthearted Liverpool chant for Salah boasts the lyrics, “if he scores another few/then I’ll be a Muslim, too”). His rag-to-riches ascendance from his rural childhood north of Cairo, combined with his continuing charity work, has made him an idol in Egypt and across the Arab world.

          Orwell may have had a point in his anti-soccer screed that “nations... work themselves into furies over these absurd contests,” and fans of the Middle East’s teams will have to reckon with the troubling aspects of their countries’ politics of sport this World Cup. But as Salah’s star turn, Saudi’s soccer diplomacy, and Team Melli’s resilience demonstrate, soccer can produce moments of transcendence and hope that resonate regardless of political borders.

          Every once in a while, there is some joy to be had in “encouraging young men to kick each other on the shins amid the roars of infuriated spectators.”
          Political Football: The World Cup’s Middle East Challengers

          æ, !

          Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


          • #80
            Croatian player addresses Ukrainians after knocking Russia out of World Cup (video)
            UNIAN 16:40, 08 July 2018

            "Glory to Ukraine!" said Domagoj Vida who scored twice in the historic quarterfinal.

            Croatian defender Domagoj Vida and ex-national team member Ognjen Vukojevic, both former players of Dynamo Kyiv, recorded a video address to Ukrainian fans after Croatia defeated Russia in a dramatic penalty shoot-out that crowned the historic quarterfinal at a Sochi stadium.

            "Glory to Ukraine!" Vida exclaimed.

            "This victory is for Dynamo and Ukraine," added Vukojevic.

            Domagoj Vida scored twice, effectively contributing to his team's spectacular achievement.


            Meanwhile, the video has caused outrage in Russia, with TV networks showing the pictures and clearly furious, according to The Sun.

            FIFA have launched an investigation after being alerted to the footage. In a statement to SunSport, the world governing body said: “FIFA is processing the different reports of the said match as well as potential evidence concerning the matter referred to.

            “Please understand, until we have evaluated all information available, we cannot comment further.”

            Vida was part of one of Ukraine's top clubs, Dynamo Kyiv, from 2013 to 2017. Vukojevic, another Dynamo ex-player, was in 2017 appointed the club's scout for the Balkans, Eastern and Central Europe. UNIAN:

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            Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp