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Elham AbolFateh

Opinions

World Cup 2018: Wins For Russia On And Off The Field

Wednesday 04/July/2018 - 01:27 PM
Sada El Balad
"Forbes" magazine- By "James Rodgers ،":
In this summer's Soccer World Cup، the Russian team is doing better than expected. Victory over Spain earned them a place in the quarter finals. Off the field، the political project to polish Russia's international image is also winning.

In sport، as in business or politics، successful implementation of a strategy takes patience، determination، a lot of time and money، and a willingness to deal with whatever may happen along the way. Russia's long-term planning is paying off.

Russia’s preparations for the World Cup go back at least a decade. It was in 2010 that the country was awarded the right to host the tournament. Even the bid had been the focus of intense effort. This was not a team just making up the numbers.

In 2008، Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium hosted the final of the UEFA Champions League. For the first -- and so far، the only -- time two English Clubs faced each other. In a thrilling contest، Manchester United overcame Chelsea. The winning team then included one of the star players of this tournament، Cristiano Ronaldo (whose Portugal team's exit this weekend will disappoint fans who would have hoped to see more of him).Never before had the Russian capital faced such an influx of foreign football fans، but the techniques tried out then in Moscow worked. Visas – in Russia، as in many places، a lengthy and costly procedure – were waived for match goers. Russia’s riot police، the OMON – known more for their rigorous approach to crowd control than for their customer service – were courtesy itself on the night of the game.

It seemed pretty clear then، with officers taking the trouble to offer directions to foreign journalists whom they might normally ignore، that the orders to behave had come from the very top. The final was a memorable victory for Manchester United، and for Russia -- which had proved itself as a host for major matches.

It was the try-out for 2018 – but why bother? Hosting the tournament is estimated to have cost Russia some $11 bn – and analysts have cast doubt on whether the economy will benefit as much as had been hoped.
That is not necessarily the point. Russia’s route to the 2018 World Cup has been fuller of incident، success، and setback than even the most demanding football season. Since 2008، Russia has lost its place in the G8 team of leading industrial nations. Its economy has suffered from sanctions imposed over its annexation of Crimea.

Russia's international reputation seems to have improved during the tournament have benefited، though – with plenty of press coverage suggesting، for example، that fans’ fears of racism have proved unfounded. Nor has there been any hooliganism. The Russian authorities have made it pretty clear that it would not be tolerated، and they seem to have been taken seriously.

All in all، the feelgood atmosphere seems to have raised questions about the way Russia is currently reported. As one England fan put it on Twitter، 'Back from 2 weeks in Russia alive. I wasn’t attacked by blood thirsty hooligans، I wasn’t eaten by a bear & I haven’t been poisoned or killed. The British media should be ashamed of themselves for their clear propaganda against the Russian people. Absolutely class country.'
So it has been a big PR success so far، if we set aside the regional governor who suggested that Germany’s early exit was due to their forefathers’ having waged war on Russia in the last century.

As teams competing in the world’s toughest tournaments know، being Champions one year is no guarantee that further success will follow -- just ask Germany. A more reliable indicator of Russia’s influence and standing in the world will come just after the end of the tournament، when President Putin meets President Trump. For now، though، Russia's performance on the pitch has exceeded expectations، and the political strategy is very much going according to plan.

Edited by Rasha Mohamed

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