FIFA World Cup- the greatest sporting event on earth with a cumulative audience amounting to 1/3rd of the world's population. An event adored by billions of football followers around the globe. An event graced by numerous dignitaries and the heads of state of the participating nations.
Such is the stature of this event, that the stakes attached to this event are not limited to competitive football but take a political colour as well. For a world that is torn apart by its differences football is a game that galvanizes it, however, at the biggest stage, it's often unable to hide the political tensions that simmer through our real world.
The world cup bid won by Russia itself was marred by accusations of use of muscle power by President Putin by the western world.
The world’s cup of joy did not have an immaculate build, bearing the brunt of the fall-out of diplomatic relations between Russia and Britain.
As a repercussion to the March 2018 poisoning of Russian former double agent and his daughter, Britain announced that no British ministers or members of the royal family would attend the World Cup, and issued a warning to any travelling England fans. Iceland also diplomatically boycotted the World Cup.
Football is intricately related with the lives of billions of people across the globe. It is not merely a sport but a way of life, an instrument to usher peace and prosperity in the war-ravaged regions of eastern Europe.
The uneasy peace in the region still simmers with old scars of bloody conflict that seldom find it's utterance on the football's greatest show.
These off-field incidents are an inevitable reminder of how deep football percolates within the daily lives of people.
We have always had differences, but there’s one thing we all agree on i.e our passion for this beautiful game. The leaders of these warring nations might it hard to negotiate terms on a bilateral summit but are seen as happy and amiable beside a football pitch.
This positive energy that breeds through the sport of football can give this world a hope of peaceful co-existence. A hope that one sport can transcend the boundaries of race, ethnicity and polities.
Though this World Cup has been one of the smoothest with no crowd trouble and heart-warming stories of warm welcome from ordinary citizens of Russia, here we highlight the off-field incidents that attracted needless eyeballs.
#4 Mo Salah and the Chechen leader
Even before he had his first touch in the World Cup, Egyptian star Mo Salah courted controversy after being pictured with the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov at Egypt’s World Cup training base in Grozny on 10th June.
Chechnya is a predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia marred by wars between the separatists and Russian forces. In the past Chechen rebels have been involved in terrorist activities and attacks on public places in Russia.
Kadyrov is a former rebel who switched his loyalties to Moscow and faces accusations of gross human rights violations, extra-judicial killings and Gay Rights violations. Ramzan Kadyrov is said to have taken advantage of the Liverpool forward’s short stay in Russia’s most controversial republic for spreading his propaganda.
He even accorded him with an honorary citizenship in Chechnya. The Egyptian FA was already criticized for choosing their World Cup base in Grozny the capital of Chechnya. Mo Salah is certainly not naive enough to comprehend that he was used as a political tool.
Now, the Internationally-recognized Mohamed Salah has some tough questions to answer raised by Gay rights and Human Rights Activists.