Two members of the Duma in Russia have asked FIFA to ban the USA team from the World Cup in Brazil this summer. The move is in response to a couple of United States senators who made a similar plea to FIFA last week in hopes of banning Russia from the tournament.
Both sides have cited military aggression and human rights transgressions perpetrated by one another against citizens of various regions around the world as the basis for their appeal. A few of the countries mentioned by the conflicting sides are Ukraine, Iran and Afghanistan.
Michael Markelov and Alexander Sidyankin are the two Duma members who have made the plea to The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The Duma is Russia’s lower parliament house, similar to the United States Congress. Sidyankin has acknowledged the request was in response to GOP senators Mark Kirk and Dan Coates similar plea to FIFA in the wake of the Russian – Ukraine dispute going on in Crimea. Kirk and Coates also asked for Russia to be banned from the 2018 games as well.
This has the feel of an adolescent argument on a playground or anywhere else one could hope to garner more attention for themselves. This is a hopeless debate that belongs anywhere but in the hands of politicians, although both have correctly cited FIFA statutes as the impetus for their requests. The statute states that any discrimination against any country, person or group is subject to punishment. No such course of action has ever been taken by FIFA although the World Cup was cancelled in both 1942 and 1946 because of World War II.
Russia asking for FIFA to ban the USA from the World Cup is not the first time that differences between the countries have spilled in to the sports arena. In 1980 US President Jimmy Carter led a boycott of The Summer Olympics in Moscow after The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. In turn, the favor was returned to the United States in 1984 when Los Angeles hosted The Summer Olympics and the Soviets led their own boycott with all eastern bloc nations following suit.
The end result of both boycotts was a backlash from fans and athletes who felt they were cheated from competition for political reasons that had no business influencing the Olympics. Michael Platini, president of the Union of European Football Associations agrees, dismissing the notion of any ban. FIFA apparently agrees, refusing to comment on the issue.
So as FIFA ignores the request of the two countries, this dispute has likely ended as it started. A squabbling match between competing and low-level politicians looking to gain attention and make a name for themselves.
Here is a solution that would solve the problem for both sides. FIFA could stage a play-in game between the United States and Russia. Winner take all and advances to the World Cup. The loser goes home and is banned from competing in Brazil this summer.
Obviously this solution is not plausible. No one would take that suggestion seriously. Nor should Russia be taken seriously for asking for FIFA to ban the US from the Word Cup.
Commentary by Mick Varner