Amy Calfy, Guest Writer
Russia and the United States are trying to get each other kicked out of the 2014 World Cup.
Tensions between Russia and the West have been surfacing recently, ever since the revolution in Ukraine and its attempt to separate itself from Russia. Ukraine’s powerful neighbor was not happy about the overthrow of its pro-Russia president. Russia’s response was to conduct military exercises on the Ukrainian border and to send troops into Crimea, a region of Ukraine that has historically been Russian.
The West has been warning Russia about possible repercussions if Russia does not back off from Crimea. References to the Cold War have been tossed around since the situation began a few weeks ago. Now, it seems that the tension and conflict is spreading into the sports world.
Two U.S. senators, Mark Kirk of Illinois and Dan Coates of Indiana, wrote to the president of FIFA requesting that Russia be banned from participating in the 2014 World Cup, citing Russia’s recent invasion of the Crimea region in Ukraine as the reason for their exclusion. They also suggested that Russia no longer be allowed to host the 2018 World Cup, since according to them, the country does not deserve that honor.
In retaliation, a pair of Russian politicians wrote their own letter to FIFA requesting that the U.S. not be allowed to participate in the 2014 World Cup. They cited alleged U.S. military involvement in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and Syria as reason for a U.S. ban. In their letter, which the Russian politicians called an “eye for an eye” response to the one made by the U.S. senators, they used the exact same wording as the earlier letter had, simply changing the reason given.
The 2014 World Cup begins on June 12 in Brazil. The United States will play in Group G with Germany, Portugal and Ghana, while Russia is in Group H, along with Belgium, Algeria and the Republic of Korea. United States and Russia could potentially play each other when the group matches end.
As the international situation continues to unfold in the three months until the
World Cup begins, it will be interesting to see how old tensions develop and whether new ones emerge between Russia and the West. With excellent soccer and a healthy dose of politics, the 2014 World Cup should be quite entertaining.