Football

Published on June 28th, 2017 | by Kashinath Bhattacharjee

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Russia’s race against time as World Cup countdown begins

Russia’s infrastructure seems fit for purpose as tested during the Confederations Cup trials. The same cannot be said for the country’s team 

Organisation, administration, safety issues, traveling between cities and obviously construction of the new stadiums were the off-the-field keys for Russia successfully hosting the Confederations Cup, a year before FIFA’s mega event. 

On-the-field, the host nation needed to put on inspired performances to encourage the fans to be excited about the FIFA World Cup in twelve months.While not too many questions can be raised on the first front, the Russian football team had a truly forgettable outing in the ongoing Confederations Cup tournament on home soil. 

The team, coached by former goalkeeper Stanislav Cherchesov, began their campaign with a win versus New Zealand but lost their last two group league matches against Portugal and Mexico to bow out before the knockout stages had begun.

In the FIFA World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016, too, Russia did not manage to reach the knockout stages. The second failure in quick succession prompted their football authority to appoint Cherchesov in place of Leonid Slutsky, who in turn had succeeded Fabio Capello in 2015.

On top of everything else, a drugs scandal – brought to light by who else other than a London daily – has not done much for the already struggling nation on the drugs front, coming soon after Russian athletes were banned from participating in the 2016 Rio Olympics due to an alleged institutionalised doping issue.

State-sponsored doping in Russia is a serious issue in international sports. As well as being barred from the summer games and Paralympics, doubts hover over Russia’s participation at next year’s Winter Olympics.

Until last week, though, there was not much said about drugs in football. But a new report has alleged doping involving the entire 23-member squad at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Eleven more Russian footballers are under the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) scanner.

FIFA reports they are investigating the allegations made against the Russian players. The world’s governing body also asserted that during the 2014 World Cup, all the members of the Russian squad tested negative. The routine checks were run after each of the matches on two randomly-picked footballers, yet nothing was found. However, FIFA are set to re-check their findings after the allegations.

However, Vitaly Mutko, the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and the man to head the Local Organising Committee for the World Cup has vehemently denied any such involvement.

The Russian news agency quoted him, saying, “do not pay attention to these reports. The British media has been writing negatively about us since 2010. In our football, doping has never been there and never will be. Our footballers are checked regularly and tests are done at each and every international match.”

England had not taken the defeat lightly in terms of bidding for the 2018 event and there have been too many revelations and scandals at FIFA since which forced big shots like Sepp Blatter and Michael Platini to resign from their respective posts. The battle will be intense in the coming months.

Other off-the-field issues have been taken care of. One major issue in traveling to Russia was obtaining a visa. However, during the Confederations Cup, ticket-holders were given visas. Hopefully the same policy will continue during the World Cup, too. Those ticket holders were allowed to travel from one city to another for free – another welcome initiative for fans planning to tour Russia for the mega event.

All said and done, the country famous for Lev Yasin will have to produce something extraordinary on the field to deliver for Stanislav Cherchesov, who in turn has 12 months to plan extensively for the World Cup, plans that his footballers’ will need to deliver to perfection to avoid a home-field disaster. 

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About the Author

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A prominent sports journalist from Kolkata, India and has a vast knowledge of soccer and its history.



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