The once in four years global fiesta is on, again. This time in Russia. For the next one month the subject of conversation is going to be on what exploits teams, individual players and match officials will be having on the field. That conversation did not wait for the first whistle to blow. It started long before the teams landed in Moscow and is continuing.
Many had wondered why Russia should host the games, a country known for violation of her neighbour’s boundaries, of sleuths sneaking across the borders of its neighbours and poisoning dissidents, and her hackers interfering with elections and political processes in Europe and North America. But President Vladimir Putin seemed little bothered with all that depiction as the bad man of Europe.
However, that was not all that Russia offered which offended people. Russian football hooligans are well known for racism during games. These are the people who make monkey-like noise when black people play and throw bananas on the pitch as a means to slight Blacks.
And on the eve of the opening match, a local MP warned Russian women not to sleep with foreigners, and certainly not to get pregnant with non-Whites. Some wondered how a country with such reputation should be honoured with hosting the most watched and most lucrative sport on earth. But at the end it did not matter.
While fans cheer in the field, football has tended to be a dirty game in the boardrooms. Not too long ago, the long-serving President of Fifa Sepp Blatter, together with many of his executives, were ousted following claims of bribery.
There was a promise the world’s favourite sport was going to be cleaned up. Well, it does not seem to be happening, instead in the lead to the current games the claims of bribery have surfaced once gain.
It touched us rather close. The referee assistant Aden Marwa Range, the closest Kenyans have come to being part of the World Cup extravaganza did not travel to Moscow because, it was claimed, he had succumbed to a corruption trap set up by a Ghanaian journalist. This touched the Ghanaian federation rather close and it was dissolved.
But before the first ball is kicked, the drama started in Moscow. The hottest name from Africa at the moment is Mo Salah, the Egyptian golden boot who plays for Liverpool in the UK. Salah has been in the news for a while. The last time he played, he limped off the pitch after Sergio Ramos, a Spaniard player, wrestled him to the ground leaving him with a shoulder injury. He is recovering and is in Moscow.
Some had claimed Salah’s injury was divine because he broke his Ramadan fast to play in the UEFA finals. Football and religion are good bedfellows and one better keep off arguments between the two.
Then Egypt decided to go and set camp in Chechnya where the local dictator took advantage of the team’s presence to score publicity points. He drove to the training grounds and wanted to hang out with Salah. It turned out Salah was asleep. No big deal, the Chechnya big man simply woke up the star and matched him around so that he could get his picture and score the point.
Now on the eve of the game Spain found themselves without a coach. Julen Lopetegui lost his job after he took up the assignment to coach Real Madrid while still holding the position of Russian national coach. The Spanish officials were not amused and sent Lopetegui back to Madrid. Moscow 2018 is already promising to be a success before the games start.
Here at home, it is going to be the first time in many seasons the games may not be broadcast live by the national broadcaster KBC. If this turns out to be the case until the end of the games, it will be annoying. How could they miss out on this?
KBC is the national broadcaster, with the widest reach and national responsibility to serve us all. Part of that service is to be available to the nation to broadcast in times of disaster, to bring to the nation the content that commercial broadcasters can’t for various reasons, and to meet the nation’s thirst for information and entertainment.
What greater thirst could there be than that of football? KBC better get its act together. While it will be difficult to forgive them for missing out in Moscow 2018, the world could come to an end if they do not cover Qatar 2022. Writer is Dean, School of Communications, Language & Performing Arts at Daystar University