So the information war is truly on. My plan – to visit each of the 11 host cities in Russia, and make a film from there, in English, and Russian. Not a promo-film. Real, factual reportage, showing you the reality of each city. As you know, all my work is completely crowdfunded, so if you support it, it’ll happen!
And this, my 3rd World Cup by the way, so there’s something to compare!
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!!
I’ve been open about the fact, that the angle of my reportage for the next period is away from Donbass, and I won’t return to report there until after the World Cup 2018.
For the last few years, most of my work has been from Donbass up to the point where I feel that I’ve done as much as can, for the time being. I’d always planned to do projects connected to Russia in the run up to the World Cup 2018, and it’ll be that way.
As for Donbass, there are excellent journalists reporting from there, in English – Patrick Lancaster of course, there’s Janus, and more – and I’ll do as much as possible to promote their work, and support Donbass in a humanitarian capacity.
On my return to Donbass to report, I don’t plan to return to reportage from the frontlines – if there’s still war there, and of course I hope there won’t be. I’ve done that really a lot of times, had more close shaves than could ever really say. It’s time to call it a day on that, luck only lasts for so long.
And I’ll look forward to my return to my Donbass, reporting from there later in 2018. There’s lots to come before that!
That article goes on to similarly rip into Russia, including the line ‘Western newspapers report that the builders made extensive use of forced labour by North Korean workers.’ Well, that’s authoritive then, ‘western newspapers’.
March had the Sun coming out with: THUG ARMY Russian footie hooligan ringleaders warn England fans could be KILLED at Russia 2018 World Cup after Euro 2016 violence
One gang leader reportedly warned: “You think it was bad in France – wait until Russia. This is our home fixture”
The Daily Mail joined the offensive with: ‘If you thought France was bad, wait until the World Cup’: Russian football ultras warn England fans they could be KILLED at 2018 tournament in a repeat of Marseille violence last summer.
There’s always doping to fall back on, of course, as in June we read:The drug squad: The Mail on Sunday reveals every member of Russia’s World Cup team is under investigation in a doping probe that shames football
Ie, a western journalist goes to Russia, takes a few photos of things in a poor state, and frames it all in the context of ‘so, ok, the World Cup may be ok, but all the money spent on the stadiums means the rest of the country’s in ‘crisis’.
In the western media, the result of the World Cup in Russia, 2018, has already been decided – a home loss. And they’re going to do everything possible to make sure that comes to pass…