Monday 16 July 2018

World Cup 2018 - To watch or not to watch

Wednesday 13th July 2018 - 1 day before the World Cup

A few days ago, I sang along to a Bobby Brown track on the radio. A couple of days after that, I enjoyed a Big Mac meal. So it figures that I would accept a World Cup staged in Russia. Don’t think, don’t act, just comply.
But I did give it a go, the boycott thing. I said to myself during Brazil 2014 that this would be my last World Cup for eight years (Qatar, with its anti-gay laws and pile-up of dead, migrant bodies outside the stadiums, follow Russia as hosts in 2022, with similar accusations of bribery in securing the tournament) and up until yesterday afternoon, my rejection of FIFA’s alliance with Putin stood firm as I continued to strongly impersonate a principled human being (save for the unofficial collaboration with an alleged drug-pushing ‘bad boy’ of pop and the feasting on corporate cow). With a couple of weeks until kick off, my missus had asked me in the Co-op whether I would be watching the football. I said I would probably only watch Argentina, France, Spain, Germany…maybe Brazil (not England, more on that later) She then reminded me of my clearly forgotten statements of disapproval, the ones citing Russia’s own anti-gay culture, the Salisbury poisonings, the alleged hoisting of Trump into ultimate power, the invasion of Ukraine. I immediately amended my new statement of intent and resumed the boycott agenda.

People like Gary Lineker have dismissed the idea of challenging Russia’s right as hosts of the World Cup, like you might if your big job in the summer was presenting on it. Easier for me to take a stance, I supposed, yet I couldn’t find any allies. A sweepstake and predictions challenge were organised at work, but I didn’t take part in either, committing wholeheartedly to my amnesty.  I didn’t explain to anyone, this was just personal choice, no need to ram my feelings down other people’s throats. I still joined in the chat, expressing surprise at Leroy Sane not making Germany’s squad and Spain’s manager being sacked a day before the tournament. I was a secret outsider, sacrificing myself to do the right thing. I knew that my action, or non-action, wouldn’t change a thing in Russia, but at least I wouldn’t be complicit. Maybe I’d give myself a day off on my birthday, watch the two quarter finals scheduled for that day, but I was convinced that on the whole, my morals wouldn’t be compromised.
What saved me, ironically, was the missus.

“So, are you going to watch the football?” she asked in the kitchen yesterday.
I mumbled my resistance, but then suddenly she was saying that I should watch it if I wanted to, that maybe the thing being in such a place would highlight the sad and terrible issues taking place, and that it could even be a platform for LGBT+ people, for instance, to wave their flags and, with all other humans in the stadiums, bring colour and difference to a country that might, even in the tiniest of percentages, change perceptions. She told me about a couple of programmes she’d watched to this effect.

“You shouldn’t have to secretly boycott it”, she added.
There was by now, a pull on two sides; there was the sense of unease at the thought of tuning in to the matches, but also a thought for the Russian gays, those that don’t exist according to one patriot (and Putin admirer) on Frankie Boyle’s recent visit to the country, shown on BBC as part of the build-up, and indeed don’t exist to the majority of the country, or at best are recognised in the same way as tax avoiders – lawful but immoral. Maybe I couldn’t get the marginalised out of the country and in to a better world, and nor could I influence the state of a nation by pointing a remote control at the telly (or not), but pretending that the World Cup in 2018 didn’t exist somehow seemed as if I was turning my back on the right-thinking, fighting for a good cause Russians.

So I was back in the World Cup, when for a while I really did seem convinced that I was going to reject the arrival in my lifetime of a 9th Christmas Day summer. When it came to the proverbial crunch, I couldn’t see it through it to the end, or even the start. And in truth, if I really am going to do everything that my girlfriend tells me to do, then maybe I didn’t really ever have the best credentials to take a stance against a brainwashing dictatorship. If that sounds like I’m comparing the mother of my three children to Putin, then that's purely unintentional and definitely not a cry for help. See, she’s just bought me a nice, cold drink while I write this. How lovely! My, what an interesting looking colour in the glass. “Give it a try”, she says. Woah! Weird taste. Oh look, I haven’t loaded the dishwasher for a while, kitchen’s bit of a mess…blimey, what is in that drink? Feeling hot…sweating.                  


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