First of all commiserations to my Spanish readers. The defeat of the Spanish side by the Russian team in the World Cup demonstrates yet again that it is not always the most skilled team that wins on the day.

Nor unfortunately football is not always about the game. Football in general, and the World Cup in particular provides an opportunity for commentators who normally do not care about football to endow the game with political meaning. So when the Russian team beat Spain, many journalist were more interested in providing a political commentary on Russia’s victory, than in examining the tactics and mistakes committed by the players in the game.

The World Cup provides an opportunity for commentators who normally do not care about football to endow the game with political meaning

Numerous commentators were clearly irritated by Russia’s success. As far as they were concerned, the Russian team’s success in the World Cup was unwelcome because it allegedly enhanced the popularity of President Putin. Worse still, argued these commentators, Russia’s football success contributed to the strengthening of people’s affection for their nation.

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The sight of ordinary Russian people happily rejoicing in their team’s success really provoked sections of the Western media. As I listened to some BBC journalists talking on the Today Programme, I drew the conclusion that they were not in the least bit interested in football: their main pre-occupation was whether or not the result of a game helped or undermined Russian nationalism.

As it happens, the globalist minded cultural elites are not only hostile to Russian but also to any form of nationalism. I will never forget an incident that occurred in June 2016 during the UEFA Euro championship. I was sitting in a bar in Budapest watching Hungary play Portugal. To everybody’s surprise, Hungary the underdog, managed to draw 3-3 with a far more accomplished Portugese side. Everybody in the bar went wild and there were celebrations in Budapest throughout the night.

When I turned to a leftist acquaintance sitting at the bar and extended my hand to say ‘aren’t we all pleased’, he looked at me with a sad expression and said ‘on the contrary, this is a bad result because it will boost the popularity of Victor Orbán’, the nationalist conservative leader of Hungary. That night, there were several comments posted on Facebook by disappointed Hungarian anti-nationalists commentators who echoed the sentiment expressed by my acquaintance.

As a sociologist I was struck by the mean spirited response of these Facebook warriors to the sight of ordinary people celebrating the achievements of their football team. Instead of attempting to share the public’s joy, all they could was to demonstrate their contempt for people who, in their eyes were so simple that they could be so easily influenced by the outcome of a football match. In fact, what the behaviour of these commentators demonstrated was their psychic distance from passions of everyday life. Emotionally they lived in a universe that was parallel to the space inhabited by the rest of society.

Their hostility to patriotic and national sensibilities was so profound that all they could do was seek refuge in a psychic space where popular sentiments did not intrude. That they would rather that the Hungarian football side was badly defeated explains why they and people like them are so isolated from everyday life. It also explains why they did so poorly in this year’s Hungary’s General Election.

Unlike sophisticated commentators, normal people could make a distinction between what was going on in the field of play and their opinion about politicians

I am not certain whether success on the football field directly leads to the boosting of the popularity of a government. I am old enough to remember, when on 25 November 1953, Hungary beat England at Wembley, 6-3. The whole of Hungary went delirious and celebrated what was then called, the Match of the Century. Did that match help legitimate the horrible Stalinist regime that presided over Hungary? Definitely not! Unlike sophisticated journalists and commentators, normal people could make a distinction between what was going on in the field of play and their opinion about politicians and their policies.

The Culture War and football

Before the opening game of the World Cup, many anti-nationalist commentators raised doubts about the wisdom of allowing an authoritarian nationalist state like Russia to act as host to this event. Their reservation about the possible benefits that hosting the World Cup would bring to Russia was only qualified by the expectation that the Russian team was likely to perform very poorly. Numerous journalists pointed out that the Russian team was one of the weakest side in the competition and they looked forward to it crashing out of the World Cup at the end of the first stage.

Even after Russia thrashed Saudi Arabia during the first game of the competition, critics of Putin argued that the host nation had nothing to celebrate. The Financial Times Magazine ran a story under the title ‘Why most Russians couldn’t care less about Putin or Football’. The author of this article, Simon Kuper observed:

‘Putin probably conceived of this World Cup as a state-orchestrated Russian nationalist spectacular, much like the Sochi Olympics and the invasion of Crimea in 2014. However, it isn’t shaping up that way so far. Even after Russia’s 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia in the opening game, very few locals were wearing national colours, and I’ve yet to see a single Russian flag hanging from an apartment window, though flag fests are the norm in most host nations’.

It is possible – but highly unlikely – that Kuper did not see a ‘single’ Russian flag hanging from an apartment window. However, even the most zealous anti-Putin ideologue could not ignore the sea of flags that were waving throughout the nation in the aftermath of the Russian team’s unexpected victory over Spain.

From the multiculturalist world view the most unforgivable flaw of the Russian team is they are too white

In the current era the Culture War, which has become increasingly global, inevitably finds its resting place on the battlefield of identity. Whatever the problems with Putin and the political outlook that he represents, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that many of his cultural critics exist on a lower moral plane. They assess every team and every match from only from the perspective of identity politics. According to these critics the problem with the Russian team is not their skills and technique but that they are too nationalists. From their multiculturalist world view the most unforgivable flaw of the Russian team is they are too white!

Most genuine football fans assess players in accordance with their skills and the contribution they make to their team. They are not particularly interested in how players look and with the exception of a minority of racists are not obsessed with the colour of their skins. That’s not how the multiculturalist commentariat approaches football. What matters above all is the identity of the player. As the title of an article in the American magazine, Mother Jones declared; ‘Russia’s national Team is Too Russian, Which Is One Reason It will Bomb out of the World Cup’.

The author of the Mother Jones article, Clint Hendler wrote ‘as Team Russia takes the field on Thursday, soccer fans will see a national team that looks almost nothing like tournament favorites Brazil, France, Germany, Spain, or Belgium’. Why? Because Russia’s team is almost entirely ‘made up of white players’. The author – predicted that because this team lacks the necessary multi-cultural credentials it will swiftly crash out of the competition. Hendler wrote that ‘most analysts predict’ that the Russian team ‘will be defeated in the first group stage, delivering an embarrassing rebuke of the nation’s insular approach to what has long been a very global game’.

Numerous other commentators also hurled the spear of multiculturalism at a team that is both too Russian and too white. Pete Baumgarner held up the very diverse Swiss football team as an example for Russia to emulate in an article titles ‘Russia’s World Cup Team Bucks Multiethnicity Seen on Swiss, Other Teams’.

Advocates of multiculturalism and diversity did not raise any objection to the fact that the Nigerian or the Senegalese teams were all black

As it happens advocates of multiculturalism and diversity are extremely selective in their criticism of teams who are homogeneous in their national composition. They did not raise any objection to the fact that the Nigerian or the Senegalese teams were all black. Nor did they condemn the Japanese team for the cultural crime of only playing Japanese players. Iran too was excused, despite fielding only Iranian players. It is evident that the target of the multiculturalist culture warriors are teams that look far too white.

Perversely these anti-white identitarians believe that they are fighting the cause of anti-racism. In reality by racialising the world of football they demonstrate that they have become mentally enslaved to an ideology hooked on race.

Photo by Aziz Acharki


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Frank Furedi
Soy profesor emérito de sociología en la University of Kent en Canterbury, Inglaterra y profesor visitante del Institute of Risk and Disaster Reduction del University College London. También soy divulgador y autor de más de 20 libros. Durante los últimos 20 años he estudiado  los desarrollos culturales que influyen en la construcción de la conciencia del riesgo contemporáneo. Mi investigación se ha orientado hacia la forma en que la cultura actual gestiona el riesgo y la incertidumbre. He publicado muchos artículos sobre controversias relacionadas con la salud, la crianza de los hijos, el terrorismo y las nuevas tecnologías. Mis dos libros, The Culture of Fear y Paranoid Parenting, investigaron la interacción entre la conciencia del riesgo y las percepciones del miedo, las relaciones de confianza y el capital social en la sociedad contemporánea. Mis estudios sobre el problema del miedo se han desarrollado en paralelo con mi exploración de la autoridad cultural en Authority, A Sociological History (Cambridge University Press 2013). También he publicado un estudio sobre la Primera Guerra Mundial: The First World War Still No End In Sight, que interpreta este evento como precursor de las Guerras Culturales de hoy. Y acabo de terminar mi último estudio, Populism And The Culture Wars In Europe: the conflict of values between Hungary and the EU. Participo regularmente en radio y televisión y he publicado artículos para AEON, The American Interest New Scientist, The Guardian, The Independent, The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Express, The Daily Mail, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Independent on Sunday, India Today, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Sunday Telegraph, Toronto Globe and Mail, The Christian Science Monitor, The Times Higher Education Supplement, Spiked-online, The Times Literary Supplement, Harvard Business Review, Die Welt y Die Zeit entre otros.