By Mark Baber
November 24 – Leading Russian senator Andrei Klimov, said on Thursday that he has credible evidence the United States aims to “discredit” the 2018 World Cup to be held in Russia.
Klimov who is head of the international affairs committee of the upper house of parliament and of the newly established protection of state sovereignty commission, said: “The commission has received credible evidence showing that American government officials are directly steering their European colleagues into using the subject of sport to the utmost to discredit Russia in 2018.”
With Russia and the United States involved in a diplomatic war over Ukraine and Syria and with US domestic politics dominated by accusations of Russian “meddling”, the accusation will come as no surprise.
The US recently insisted Russian news channel RT register as a “foreign agent” and Klimov has been at the forefront of efforts to retaliate against Western media in Moscow, recently saying that: “Today the myth of free speech in the U.S. has fallen and, along with it, the basis for allowing the mouthpieces of American propaganda in Russia to live comfortably.”
According to Klimov: “We have grounds to believe that an attack will occur on the football World Cup.”
Klimov has provided no evidence about what kind of attack Washington might be preparing, but it seems inevitable that fiercely anti-Russian US media and NGOs will attempt to exploit the doping scandal with the hope of enmeshing Russian footballers as well as highlighting human rights in Russia, particularly around stadium construction.
It emerged earlier this week that the United States Soccer Federation was exploring the idea of hosting a competition featuring countries who missed out on next year’s World Cup in Russia. With major countries such as Italy, Chile and the Netherlands potentially involved, it doesn’t take a particularly paranoid imagination to see such a competition providing the nucleus of an alternative to the FIFA World Cup, if the US can organise some kind of boycott.
With Russia’s participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics under threat due to the doping scandal, according to Klimkov: “It is not important whether it is football or the winter sport events. What is important to them is to use sport as a club aimed at our state and society.”
According to Klimkov, the “US plot” will be addressed at a meeting of foreign ministry and sport officials on Tuesday. Regardless of the outcome of that meeting and whether further details emerge, it seems inevitable that US-Russian tensions will spill over into the World Cup arena, with FIFA hoping the upcoming tournament passes off without any major disruption.
FIFA at its congress in 2018 will vote on the hosts for the 2026 World Cup with the US and its Mexican and Canadian partners as favourites to win the bid. They are up against Morocco.
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