Of course, it’s a different world now, a different Ukraine. But even after covering events like this, where Ukraine had shelled civilians in Donbass –
And many, sadly, similar instances, I remind myself that these are people who claim to represent Ukraine, but are not Ukraine. Ukraine in the prism of those ‘ambassadors’ exists in a monstrified, maniacal form of its earlier self. A country of which a small minority overthrew a democratic government in early 2014, then set about attacking anyone who didn’t accept their actions. Whether that be shelling civilians of Donbass, who rejected their version of Ukraine, or doing as much mischief in Crimea as they are able to.
But, from Crimea, where I write this, I’ve met many decent, nice Ukrainians, this year –
However, sadly, they are not the ones running the show in Ukraine at the moment. And whether they even represent the majority of Ukrainians anymore, is a moot point, with many in Ukraine having full-scale swallowed their own propaganda, that ‘everything is Russia’s fault‘, they must ‘hate Russia‘, ‘Putin is to blame‘ for all their own problems, and so on. Don’t just take my word for it, look at these Ukrainian fans, at Euro 2016 –
Of course, Poroshenko’s favourite refrain, and one which plays particularly well to a home crowd struggling with a country beset with problems only becoming worse, is that Russia is the root of all Ukraine’s problems. Poroshenko’s Twitter is awash with the kind of apropos of nothing abuse, vitriol directed at Russia of the kind one may more commonly associate with a one of the football fans in the above video – this just a sampling –
And this, would have been all Poroshenko’s christmases(which he wants tomove the date of, by the way – the existing January 7th date ‘too Russian’), coming at once. The opportunities and possibilities presented by Ukrainian qualification for the World Cup 2018, would have been simply mind-blowing. Boycott? Ok, that’s one. Or what about go to Russia, and take every opportunity with the eyes of the world on Russia, to create scandal, drag politics into sport, cause scenes, conflict, agitation, provocation, make the football a sideshow to the Poroshenko show, with him using the World Cup as a platform to boost his bid for the 2019 Ukrainian presidential elections. Pause for a moment, just imagine the opportunity afforded by a World Cup to do what one will, at one’s will, in the full knowledge a sympathetic global media will be cheering you on….
But, it wasn’t to be. 2 decent, but defendable goals by Andrej Kramarić, and Ukraine won’t play any part of 2018’s World Cup, apart from the inevitable trolling and attempts to capitalise on the attention, now reflected, anyway. But, that will meet with limited success. Sore losers. Ghosts at the feast. They had a winnable match against a Croatia side on a slump, with a new coach, in their own backyard, and they turned a performance so limp as to suggest some of the players themselves didn’t much fancy being a part of the Poroshenko spectacle of Ukraine at the 2018 World Cup.
Ukraine blew it. For all the good Ukrainians who support their national team, it’s bad news. For all the other Ukrainians who couldn’t wait to go to Russia, and delight in causing as many problems as they can with the ‘get out of jail card’ of knowing what an image a Russian police officer arresting a Ukrainian would present, no matter what they’d done, it’s worse news. For Poroshenko, it’s a major blow, suddenly the world stage Russia 2018 presents has no place for him to go and, figuratively of course, piss all over it.
For fans of football, it’s truly excellent news. It means we can look forward to a World Cup 2018 of sport, of high-octane clashes between the world’s best players, at some of the world’s best stadiums, devoid of all the drama that would have cast black clouds over proceedings. There will be other issues, and scandals, of course there will. But, none to hold a candle to what Ukraine was going to unleash.
It’s a reminder that in sport, there is an innate fairness. Invariably, the best team wins. Ukraine’s footballers were taken apart on their own turf last night. The trojan horse that Ukraine’s footballers would have brought to Russia 2018 didn’t get over the last hurdle. A victory for Croatia in Kiev, a victory for football fans all over the world. A rare instance where Ukraine must actually admit their own failings have nothing to do with a Russia on which they will look on in 2018, but with few looking back at them.
On a purely footballing level, as a football fan, from me – it’s a like!!
Anyway, be honest, what do you really know about Russia, the world’s largest country? Maybe not that much? Or maybe quite a lot? Well, in any case, here’s 18 facts, in honour of 2018, prefixed by interesting above, because I think they’re interesting. Hope you share that:
Red Square, Moscow, Russia!! We all know that, right. Epic size square. It’s not even one of the biggest in Russia. It’s the 6th.
Think of all the massive events and concerts on Red Square, notably, Paul McCartney. Can you think of another one? Well, Madness played there, in 1992, on TOTP. However, post break-up of the Soviet Union and all that, organisation wasn’t great, and not too many Red Square punters here –
Remember Ladas? Yes, you still see them everywhere in Russia. You may not have seen the new ones before, pretty cool. The chief designer, btw, Steve Mattin, one of us. From Bedford no less.
So you are always reading about ‘Russian aggression‘ towards Ukraine, right. You may be surprised that you’ll have trouble finding a Russian person who doesn’t have family, or some connection to Ukraine. Among most Russians is a sadness that two countries once so close have been driven apart, a desire for everything to be ‘horosho’ again…
‘Horosho‘ (kind of like horror show) means ‘good’ in Russian. But Russians sometimes even say ‘gud’, and quite like using English words, in conversation. So, you’ll hear Russian spoken, interspersed with ‘laik’ (like), ‘relax’, ‘business lanch’ (you get it), and quite a few more. However, beware, not all English-sounding words are English, and can have quite a different meaning! For example ‘sock’ means ‘juice’. And ‘sad’ is ‘garden’ 😉
It goes both ways. Remember The Clockwork Orange. The language there ‘Nadsat‘ is mostly comprised of Russian. ‘Ludi’, ‘chelovek’, ‘droog’ – all Russian.
And by the way, you all know the word ‘Babushka’ / ‘Babooshka’, right. In Russian this is the word not only for grandmother, but generally for women of a certain age, and while to us it may sound even a bit offensive, in Russian, it’s really not.
You’ll really struggle to find a British politician Russians like, for perhaps obvious reasons. Even Winston Churchill, despite allying with Stalin for victory in WWII, is not generally popular, due to his dislike of the Soviet Union.
However, there are popular British figures in Russia. Princess Diana is widely adored, Robin Hood is a hero in Russian folklore too, English (sorry Scots) footballers are popular, British music is as loved as anywhere – actually Robbie Williams was recently due to give big-scale concerts in Russia, before getting cold feet, for some reason.
There is another British ‘Russian hero‘, the spy Kim Philby. While younger Russians may not know him, mention him to Russians of 30s, and above, and be generally sure that the man we know as a traitor is indeed a popular figure in Russia. Because of that.
Everything is done a bit younger. We get married at 30 or 35. With the possible exception of Moscow, and St Petersburg, marriage age can be even early twenties.
You know all that we hear about ‘Russians never smiling’, etc. It’s just not true. Russians smile as much, or perhaps even more, than the next man. Smile yourself, you’ll see 🙂
However, no question that Russia is a country redolent with its own unique traditions, and superstitions. Never, ever give a lady 12 roses, or any even number – that is for the dead. Never shake hands over a doorway – bad luck. Always sit down for a few moments to reflect, before a long journey. Forgetting anything and having to return is bad luck. It goes on. These are real things.
If you want service in a restaurant, you call to the waitress ‘devushka’ – which is ‘girl’, or if male ‘molodoi chelovek’ – young person. You won’t sound like Father Jack, if the former, either. It’s par for.
It’s sometimes hard to comprehend sometimes just how vast Russia is. If you read this in London, you are 1556 miles from Moscow. People in Russia, Vladivostok, are over twice as far away as you, almost 4000 miles. If you liked this, put a like, share it, etc, and I may do some more, my droog 🙂