World Cup bidding process just got even dirtier.
Leader of Russia’s bid for World Cup 2018 aims swipe at England
The leader of Russia’s bid for the 2018 World Cup has launched an attack on England, one of their rivals to host the tournament. Alexei Sorokin criticised high crime rates in London and the drinking habits of the country’s youth.
Sorokin’s comments were made in an interview with the Russian newspaper, Sport Express, and could contravene Fifa’s rules which do not allow bid nations to criticise their rivals. He also accused the British media of running a campaign to besmirch Russia’s reputation and suggested that English football has a problem dealing with racism.
“We do not enter into squabbles,” he said. “It’s no secret, for example, that London [has] the highest crime rate when compared with other European cities, and the highest level of alcohol consumption among young people.”
Sorokin also took aim at the West Bromwich Albion forward, Peter Odemwingie. The former Lokomotiv Moscow player was the subject of a poster featuring a banana and the message “Thanks West Bromwich Albion” when he joined Roberto Di Matteo’s side in the summer but Sorokin said he was merely using the incident for publicity.
He also insisted the burning of a US flag at Old Trafford, in a protest by Manchester United supporters against the club’s American owners, the Glazers, on the same day as the Lokomotiv fans displayed the banana banner amounted to “inciting racial hatred”.
“We were aware [of the flag burning] but did not focus on this,” he said. “We could start a conversation about the lack of tolerance and inciting ethnic hatred by English fans but do not behave like the aunt in the kitchen criticising our neighbours. The [banana] banner was not racist. It was directed against a particular player who got very good money, lived very well here but for some reason did not seem to want to play well.
“Racism is a common problem, not just in Russia. All soccer countries have had this, including Britain. Naturally we must fight this and in the Russian Football Union we have a programme to combat all forms of racism.”
When asked why Odemwingie had complained about the banner, Sorokin said: “Maybe he simply wants to become more popular. In any case I am sorry that this is happening.”
Sorokin feels the British media placed such focus on the Odemwingie story to deflect attention away from the resignation of Lord Triesman as the chairman of England’s bid.
“We realised that this would happen, just after the publication of the article about Lord Triesman,” he added. “Because when the British – I mean the journalists rather than their bid – realised what they had done, they needed a way to divert attention away from this unpleasant story. And they did this by looking for negatives about a competitor.” (Guardian)
Much of what Alexei Sorokin has stated publicly amounts to a deliberate attempt to smear England’s 2018 World Cup bid and is totally against not only the spirit of the bidding process it is also against FIFA’s code of conduct, but what are the odds that football World governing body will do anything about it? Slim to none.
The idea that the Leader of Russia’s bidding party could attempt to accuse English crowds of racism when his own country has a problem the like of which dwarfs the nadir of the early 80s abuse that was prevalent in England, is laughable.
Quite how Sorokin can then claim that the banner directed at West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie was not racist is ignorant in the extreme. This whole saga has left a very bitter taste in the mouth for anyone with a love of the game. For years it has been something of well known secret that FIFA delegates have been exchanging favours for votes, and for years it was almost as though it was the way things were done and no one really batted an eyelid.
FIFA has had a wake up call much like the IOC did a decade or so ago and Sepp Blatter has to make some clear decisions about how he wants to take the organisation forward. The fear is that he will choose to do nothing of the sort and after a suspension here and a resignation there, the whole sordid game will continue because it is simply too good a thing for all the committee members to give up.
Why for instance is a massive decision like the awarding of the hosting of a World Cup Finals left to 25 members to decide? When you have a decision of this magnitude to be taken among a small select band of men then do not be surprised if inducements are offered and gladly received.
If anyone believes that change is on the horizon then they may well be sorely disappointed.