Since a couple of years, I was saying that this will be the best World Cup ever. Today I can say it even more, with more conviction… It is the best World Cup ever. The Russian people, a big, big thank you to Russia. A big thank you to the Russian government, President Vladimir Putin, of course, the organising committee, the Russian Football Union, everyone who was involved in this country to make sure this World Cup would be the best ever. The World Cup has changed the perception of the world towards Russia. I think everyone who has been here for some time … has discovered a welcoming country.
-FIFA President Gianni Infantino
The 21st edition of the world’s most popular sport may have come to an end last Sunday in the Russian capital, Moscow, with France landing their second title following their 4-2 victory over Croatia, but in the build up to the tournament the clear bias of the Western media to competitions not taking place in their “preferred nation” was once again very obvious and left a sour taste.
In fact if one had swallowed all the reports that we read almost on a daily basis, then one would have thought that FIFA had goofed in awarding the tournament to Russia.
But as the above quote indicates even the president of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, was very impressed with superlative organization by the Russians – even though one might concede that it was expected, after all no one loves admits he made a mistake.
But then virtually all the reports I’ve read on the competition was full of accolades for the way the World Cup was not only organised but how welcoming the people were towards the millions of fans who descended on Russia for the duration of the tournament.
Incidentally, even the hard to please US President, Donald Trump, gave a thumbs up to Russia 2018 tweeting: “Congratulations to France, who played extraordinary soccer, on winning the 2018 World Cup. Additionally, congratulations to President Putin and Russia for putting on a truly great World Cup Tournament – one of the best ever!”
However, the bias can be traced back to 2010 when Russia was awarded the FIFA’s flagship tournament a number of eyebrows were raised especially in many Western capitals, which alluded to possible underhand tactics employed by Russia to convince the 22-member FIFA Executive Committee, which met in the Swiss capital, Zurich, on December 2, 2010 to vote them.
In winning in the second round of voting, Russia upstaged bids from Portugal/Spain, which came second, and that from Belgium/Netherlands, which placed third. England, which was bidding to host its second tournament after 1966, was eliminated in the first round.
Of course this did not go down well with the English Football Association and others who raised concerns of bribery on the part of the Russian team and corruption from FIFA members. They claimed that four members of the Executive Committee had requested bribes to vote for England, and then President Sepp Blatter had said that it had already been arranged before the vote that Russia would win.
The 2014 Garcia Report, an internal investigation led by Michael J. Garcia, was withheld from public release by Hans-Joachim Eckert, FIFA’s head of adjudication on ethical matters. Eckert instead released a shorter revised summary, and his (and therefore FIFA’s) reluctance to publish the full report caused Garcia to resign in protest. Because of the controversy, the FA refused to accept Eckert’s absolving of Russia from blame, with Greg Dyke calling for a re-examination of the affair and David Bernstein calling for a boycott of the World Cup.
In the end cooler heads prevailed and the preliminaries of the competition kicked off as scheduled with all 209 members of the football body entering and finally culminating with last Sunday’s conclusion.
But this did not stop the Western media from continually highlighting racism issues, hooliganism and government’s distaste for the gay community as likely to mar the competition.
However, at the end of the day, the tournament passed without any of the doomsday predictions happing.
Incidentally, this observation was picked up by the BBC in an article published last Monday titled: “World Cup 2018: Were ‘perfect hosts’ Russia misjudged?” The writer admitted that “So much of the build-up to the tournament was dominated by negative coverage in the UK”.
He then went on to point out that on the contrary, “the World Cup has been a huge success.”
But this not the first time such is happening. Negative Western media reports were also very obvious in the run up to South Africa 2010.
I still vividly remember some of the all-news satellite stations we are used to in Nigeria constantly pointing out all the negatives about South Africa – the high prevalent rates of HIV/AIDS, crime, xenophobia and lack of the necessary infrastructure to host a tournament of such magnitude.
I even recall one British tabloid running an interview with a so-called “South African prostitute” who vowed to sleep with as many men (visitors and locals) in order to make as much money as possible during the World Cup even though she was HIV positive!
The negative propaganda was so overwhelming that those of us who travelled to the Rainbow Nation to cover the tournament from a fellow African nation, Nigeria, did so with so much trepidation – not sure of what we would meet.
But our stay went off very peacefully and many of us marveled at the development in South Africa, wondering why the so-called “Giant of Africa” could not be so blessed with good roads, constant electricity and very impressive facilities.
Or is it in the build up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, when the Western media constantly bombarded us with tales of oppression and backwardness?
Alas, when we arrived at the Chinese capital with its impressive eye-catching “Birds’ Nest” stadium, we were taken aback by the gleaming buildings, wide roads and very friendly people.
The Western media hardly played up the advanced technology of the Chinese but none of us who went to cover the Olympics will forget the high speed trains which whisked us to the various venues far flung over the vast nation not only in comfort but often topping over 300km per hour!
In fact, although speed trains were first deployed in China in 1998, the Asian country now has the largest high speed rail network in the world – more than Western powerhouses, France, with its TVG, and Germany, which operates ICE, combined.
China has 22,000 km of high speed train network, while France has 2,647 km and Germany 5,000km.
Ironically, in the run up to the 1994 World Cup in the US, I do not recall reading such negative reports even though they have their own share of problems – a lot of homeless and poor people and the world’s highest number of murders associated with guns and drugs.
And even though the next World Cup is still four years away, the Western media has already started treating us to stories of “slave labour” and the “inhumane” treatment of the millions of foreign workers striving to help get Qatar ready.
However, I’m sure that by the time the tournament kicks off and ends, we will be treated to much better tales from the first Arab nation to host the Mundial in its 88-year history!