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FIFA proves to the British that Russia is not the enemy

FIFA Championship tournament defies geopolitical propaganda efforts as lovers of football meet and compete right in the heart of Moscow

Seraphim Hanisch

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The UK government is likely to have to eat a lot of crow this year. Despite all the fiery rhetoric about Russian “aggression” and secret spies deployed by Vladimir Putin all around the world, and especially in England, some British citizens came to Russia anyway. The FIFA World Cup is being played here, after all, and football is very important for these people.

As the result of this, the people from one of the most stalwart Western powers are getting a completely different and first-hand, view of Russia.

A news piece in the Guardian, entitled “Message to the English: come to Russia and feel the love” blew the lid off the seal that the British propagandists thought they had placed on the great country to their east, and it was done simply and in the most direct way possible, by portraying the experience of the English tourists who are in Russia en masse now for the tournament. Tom Rosenthal writes:

This. World. Cup. Is. Good. Having been lucky enough to be at Nizhny Novgorod for England 6 Panama 1(stick that in your hats), St Petersburg for Argentina 2 Nigeria 1(Messi’s foot of God) and Kaliningrad for Belgium against England (the game was literally pointless), I get to write in The Guardianto say my personal experience is that Russia is absolutely killing this World Cup, which is a vast improvement on spies in Zizzi*. The organisation of this tournament has been fantastic and you’ll struggle to find anyone who’ll say otherwise, which is not because they’re a double-agent or a Twitter bot, but because it’s true.

Newspaper headlinesBloodthirsty hooligans vow murder”, “Russian Ultras: KID BOOTCAMP” and “Russian hooligans warn England fans ‘prepare to DIE’’’. A BBC documentary called Russia’s Hooligan Army. A Foreign Office warning of “heightened risks of violence”. What do these things have in common? Well, they all sound like things Ross Kemp would mumble in his sleep, but they are also UK media reports that put a lot of English people off having an experience like mineand having the opportunity to experience first-hand which country puts us out on penalties.

It’s so trite to say the people have been amazing… but the response of the Russian populace to England fans has been the polar opposite of what we were told to guard against. Mark Roberts, head of UK football policing, warned against taking England flags to Russia, for fear of being too imperialistic and inciting violence. He might have felt a little silly in Victory Square, Kaliningrad, with St George’s crosses draped over every inch of the U Gasheka pub, native onlookers cheering along to the Umbro-clad mire of English lager-lads singing adapted Atomic Kitten songs (“Southgate you’re the one, you still turn me on … football’s coming home again”). If flags are universally signals of peremptory intent, tell that to the Russian teenager who asked all the fans he met to sign his with where they were from. Desecrating the sacred colours of the motherland with “Jeff, Grimsby” doesn’t get you put in a gulag, apparently.

And if this all sounds too magical to be true, that’s how it felt.When numerous Russians asked why we were being told not to come to their country – once phrasing it heartbreakingly as, “Why don’t you like us?” – I initially worried it was some sort of state edict that Putin had issued into their mind-chips to trick us. But it quickly became obvious that it was I, plagued with worries of being attacked if I donned an England shirt, who had been operating in a fantasy of disinformation. My first Airbnb host said how happy he was to meet an Englishman, as his favourite author was Stephen Fry and described how he’d very much enjoyed the BBC adaptation of War and Peace, and that Russians felt a great affinity for the British as they also had a great empire in the past but are now far less powerful and in somewhat of an identity crisis in the present. I tried to return the compliment but am so poorly read I settled for saying it was great when Andrei Arshavin scored four goals for Arsenal at Anfield.

Mr. Rosenthal is not alone in his observations. The FIFA World Cup has created amazing exposure for the Russian Federation to the Western world. With many hundreds of thousands of tourists here from countless countries, the air in Russia is one of enjoyment, delight and interest as people from all over the world get to enjoy the games together, and to get to know what it really is like here. 

This is not a phenomenon that is restricted to Moscow or St Petersburg, either. Eleven cities are FIFA game sites, and for the people here following the matches, it is a huge opportunity to explore a whole lot of the nation and to get a pretty solid idea of what life is like here, and about what the attitudes of the Russian people are towards Westerners.

There are two nations that stand to receive the biggest surprise from viewing the reality of Russia versus the propaganda about the country: The United Kingdom and the United States. Although the American soccer team did not make it to the FIFA tournament, many Americans did, and they have been seen in Moscow and St Petersburg en masse, and they are astounded by what Russia is really like.

But for the British, as Mr. Rosenthal noted above, it is a completely radical experience.

Sputnik News writes that in Moscow’s famous Red Square, late in the evening around eight o’clock PM, on a small pitch, two teams met to make a gentlemen’s game of European football (a.k.a soccer).

The teams were comprised of Russian fans, and… British fans. They joined the game with relish, and with a very friendly spirit of competition. Sputnik writes:

As the sun goes down on Red Square, twenty-three British fans jog up and down a miniature football pitch; they practice high knees, backwards jogs and heel kicks. They’re warming up for one of the more intense games of the tournament: England fans vs Russian fans.

…Those kitted up and ready to play may not be professional footballers on the English side, but the game is a serious one. The organiser, Richard Peers, runs the British School of Football in Moscow. He explains how this game symbolises ‘friendship through sport’; with sport being the ‘best means to engage’. Given the undeniably tempestuous UK/ Russia relations of late, this World Cup has been an opportunity to smooth out some of the diplomatic rifts between the nations. An example of sport spearheading through the swamp of politics.

It is an interesting juxtaposition. In the run-up to the Cup, the opposite was true, politics was all anybody talked about. As Mr. Peers notes, “after all that has happened over the last few months, UK/ Russia relations are very different.” This is an opportunity to put the countries’ positives into the media spotlight, and to promote the true reality of Russia. A month ago, when people discussed England versus Russia, they were not picturing a friendly played out in the heart of the Russian capital. Most likely, they would hark back to the European Championships of 2016.

The FIFA championships of 2018 have placed Russia in the world spotlight like never before and at a most opportune time. Great numbers of Westerners descended upon Russia, some 25,000 expected from Mexico alone, and for weeks already, Moscow’s famous Nikolksy Street has been the crossroads of the world, as fans from all the participating nations, and visitors from still more nations, converged in Russia’s capital city.

The stormy political relations between the United Kingdom and Moscow of late had their effect on some, but as Sputnik goes on to say, coming to Moscow heralded quite the discovery:

Al Humphries ‘Big Al’, 54, from Northampton, is in the stands watching the game. He notes his anxiety in planning his trip to Russia — talking specifically on the subject of the European championship two years ago in Marseilles.

“I was frightened at first. I thought I wasn’t going to come. I thought it was going to be a bloodbath. Especially for England fans, we’re a target, and we’ve got a reputation.”

But with such beliefs, why did ‘Big Al’ decide to come to Russia for the World Cup championships?

“I thought things would have changed, and of course, it was right. It’s not the same anymore. I thought it was going to be very nasty here, but it’s just been unbelievable. I mean just look at this! A friendly!

Big Al gestures to the people on the pitch. Both teams are well into the game, sweat flying.

© SPUTNIK / MAUD START England fans vs Russian fans tournament in the Red Square in Moscow

Big Al’s mate, Matt from Warsaw, weighs in. He said he had not been afraid of coming to Russia for the World Cup, but this raises some eyebrows among his peers. There were not many British fans that were not slightly concerned in the run-up to the tournament. As a result, the reality of Russia has come as a surprise to many.

“Getting the Fan Ids and visas, easy. Tickets, ok, I had to go collect them myself. But, the streets are clean, the police are polite, and the underground is amazing. I think this is really good for Russia. Everyone has been so welcoming, and you know, the Western world has a view of Russia that could be changed through this World Cup.

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mary janePatrick WoolleycolchuckJohn Vu Recent comment authors
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mary jane

The establishment will find some way to spin it. Should be interesting, our propaganda machine gets less credible by the day.

Patrick Woolley
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Patrick Woolley

McCain must be frothing at the mouth over how well this World Cup is going.

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Russia is a good and great country and it is a shame that the Military Industrial Congressional Complex and NATO has to have a Fall Guy for their Elites to siphon money from their peoples.

John Vu
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Putin is a partner of Deepstate.

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Theresa May’s soft Brexit plan continues to fail, as EU now pushing for UK to leave (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 138.

Alex Christoforou

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Theresa May’s soft Brexit strategy has been such a monumental failure that even Brussels negotiators are now pushing for the UK to simply leave the union, in what has becoming a British debacle, and a thorn in the Conservative Party’s side.

Many media pundits and analysts are now asking if the latest impasse in Brexit talks means that we are indeed seeing the last days of Theresa May?

While much of the mess the Conservative Party finds themselves in because of Brexit is squarely Theresa May’s fault, much of the damage done by May’s inability to close the deal on Brexit will not go away, even if she does.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s continued failure to obtain her soft Brexit dream, placing herself (and her Conservative Party) in such an embarrassing position, that European Union negotiators, tired of never ending talks, are eager to see Britain go away, in what will be an inevitable hard Brexit.

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“Are these the last days of Theresa May?”, authored by Stephen Bush via The New Statesman:


Are these the last days of Theresa May? This morning’s papers are full of stories of plots and ultimatums to the Prime Minister unless she changes her Brexit strategy, whether from her Scottish MPs over any extension of the transition period due to concerns over fisheries policy, from her Brexiteer MPs over the backstop or from her Cabinet over practically everything.

All this before the Budget next Monday, when Philip Hammond is going to have to find some way to pay for the extra cash for the NHS and Universal Credit all while keeping to May’s pledge that debt will continue to fall as a share of GDP. So added to all May’s Brexit woes, a row over tax rises could be coming down the track.

Of course, the PM’s position has been perilous for a very long time – in fact, when you remember that her period of hegemony ran from July 2016 to June 2017, she’s actually been under threat for more of her premiership than she hasn’t. But just because you roll heads 36 times in a row doesn’t mean your chances of rolling tails aren’t 50/50 on roll 37, and May’s luck could well be running out.

But while May shares a good size of the blame for the mess that the Conservative Party are in, it’s not all her fault by any means and none of those problems will go away if May is replaced or changes tack to win over her internal opponents in the European Research Group.

Ireland has a veto over the end state and only an indefinite and legally binding backstop for the island of Ireland will do if any deal is to be signed off. It’s true to say that no deal also means a hard border on the island of Ireland, but it’s also true that it will always been in the political interests of whoever is in office in Ireland for a hard border to be imposed as a result of no deal rather than for the Irish government to acquiesce in the creation of one through a EU-UK treaty.

The DUP can bring the Conservative government to an early end so they, too, have a de facto veto over any deal that creates barriers between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. But the only UK-wide solution – for the backstop to encompass the whole of the United Kingdom – is nothing doing with pro-Brexit Conservative MPs who don’t want an indefinite backstop. It’s also politically tricky with many EU member states, who don’t want the default outcome of the talks to be a UK-wide backstop, which many regard as a threat to the sanctity of single market. (The only reason why it is acceptable on the Irish border is because Ireland is still a member state and because the Irish border was both the location and the cause of political violence within living memory.)

Added to that, the Conservative parliamentary party seems to be undergoing a similar psychological journey to the one that Steve van Riel described during the 2015 Labour leadership election: that groups of any kind tend to reach a more extreme position the longer an issue is debated. Brexiteers who spent 20 years saying they wanted a Norway style deal now talk of Norway as a betrayal. Leavers who cheerily talked about making Northern Ireland into its own customs area before Brexit now talk of the backstop as a constitutional betrayal. And Conservative Remainers who only reluctantly backed an In vote to avoid the political upheaval of negotiating Brexit, or the loss of David Cameron, now call for a referendum re-run and privately flirt with the idea of a new party.

Some of that is May’s fault, yes. But none of it is going to go away if she does and all of it makes the prospect of reaching a Brexit deal considerably less likely.

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Saudi Crown Prince Spoke To Khashoggi By Phone Moments Before He Was Killed: Report

The shifting Saudi narrative of the killing has been met with scepticism and condemnation from the international community.

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Via Zerohedge


In the latest bombshell report involving the Khashoggi murder, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly spoke on the phone with journalist Jamal Khashoggi moments before he was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish pro-government daily Yeni Safak disclosed the new alleged details of the case in a report on Sunday, contradicting claims by Saudi authorities that Prince Mohammed played no part in Khashoggi’s murder.

“Khashoggi was detained by the Saudi team inside the consulate building. Then Prince Mohammed contacted Khashoggi by phone and tried to convince him to return to Riyadh,” the report said.

“Khashoggi refused Prince Mohammed’s offer out of fear he would be arrested and killed if he returned. The assassination team then killed Khashoggi after the conversation ended,” it added.

While the report is so far unconfirmed, the New Arab reports that so far Turkish pro-government media have been receiving a steady stream of leaks many of which turned out to be accurate, including pictures of the hit team as they entered Turkey and reports of audio recordings of the murder said to be in the possession of Turkish authorities.

Meanwhile, the Saudi version of events has been changing significantly over the past two weeks with authorities conceded Saturday that Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist and a Riyadh critic, was killed inside the kingdom’s Istanbul diplomatic compound following a “brawl”. The admission came after a fortnight of denials with the insistence that the journalist left the consulate alive, starting on October 5, when Crown Prince MBS told Bloomberg that Khashoggi was not inside the consulate and “we are ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises”.

On Saturday, the kingdom announced it had fired five top officials and arrested 18 others in an investigation into the killing – a move that has widely been viewed as an attempt to cover up the crown prince’s role in the murder.

The shifting Saudi narrative of the killing has been met with scepticism and condemnation from the international community, and has left the U.S. and other allies struggling for a response on Sunday. As Bloomberg reports, France demanded more information, Germany put arms sales to Riyadh on hold and the Trump administration stressed the vital importance of the kingdom and its economy to the U.S.

In Sunday radio and TV interviews, Dominic Raab, the U.K. politician in charge of negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union, described the latest Saudi account as not credible; French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called for “the truth’’; and Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his government would approve no arms sales so long as the investigation was ongoing.

Earlier on Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir acknowledged a cover-up attempt. The dramatic reversal, after Saudi officials had previously said the columnist left the building alive, has only complicated the issue for allies.

Saudi Arabia’s al-Jubeir told Fox News on Sunday that the journalist’s death was an “aberration.”

“There obviously was a tremendous mistake made and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to cover up,” he said, promising that “those responsible will be punished for it.”

More importantly, he said that Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the events, although if the Turkish report is confirmed, it will be yet another major flaw with the official narrative.

Several senior members of US President Donald Trump’s Republican Party said they believed Prince Mohammed was linked to the killing, and one called for a “collective” Western response if a link is proved. In an interview with The Washington Post, President Trump, too, said the Saudi narrative had been marked by “deception and lies.’’ Yet he also defended Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a “strong person,’’ and said there was no proof of his involvement in Khashoggi’s death. Some members of Congress have questioned his willingness to exonerate the prince.

“Obviously there’s been deception and there’s been lies,” Trump said on the shifting accounts offered by Riyadh.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to disclose details about the case at a meeting of his AK Party’s parliamentary faction on Tuesday, Haberturk newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, as Western firms and high-ranked officials scramble to avoid any Saudi involvement, Russia is more than happy to step in and fill the power vacuum void left by the US. As a result, Russian businesses are flocking to attend the investment forum in Saudi Arabia, as Western counterparts pull out.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has had considerable success boosting Moscow’s influence in the Middle East at U.S. expense, by standing by regimes that fall afoul of the West, including in Syria and Iran. Last week Putin signed a strategic and partnership agreement with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, backed by $25 billion in loans to build nuclear reactors. Until El-Sisi came to power, Egypt had been closely allied to the U.S.

Meanwhile, all eyes are fixed squarely on the Crown Prince whose position of power is looking increasingly perilous. Congressional leaders on Sunday dismissed the story proffered earlier by the Saudis, with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bob Corker of Tennessee saying they believed the crown prince was likely involved in Khashoggi’s death.

Lawmakers said they believe the U.S. must impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia or take other action if the crown prince is shown to have been involved. Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, said the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. should be formally expelled until a third-party investigation is done. He said the U.S. should call on its allies to do the same.

“Unless the Saudi kingdom understands that civilized countries around the world are going to reject this conduct and make sure that they pay a price for it, they’ll continue doing it,”’ Durbin said.

The obvious question is what happens and how the Saudi royal family will respond if it is pushed too far, and whether the worst case scenario, a sharp cut in oil exports, could be on the table if MBS feels like he has little to lose from escalating the situation beyond a point of no return.

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The Biggest Winners In The Mediterranean Energy War

Energy companies are flocking to the Mediterranean after oil and gas discoveries in the territorial waters of Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt.

The Duran

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Authored by Vanand Meliksetian via Oilprice.com:


Former Vice-President of the United States Dick Cheney once said: “the good lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected states… Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all considered, one would not normally choose to go. But we go where the business is.” Europe is surrounded by states with abundant energy resources, but supply from these countries is not always as reliable. Russia, for example, is regularly accused of using energy as a weapon. However, major discoveries of gas in the Eastern Mediterranean could mitigate dependence on Russian gas.

The discovery of a gas field named Tamar near the coast of Israel in 2009 set off a wave of investments in the energy sector. After 9 years, companies are flocking to the region after other discoveries in the territorial waters of Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt. Ever larger finds in the Mediterranean Sea’s Levant Basin such as the Leviathan gas field in 2010 and Zohr in 2015, have the potential to transform the strategic importance of the region.

Turkey’s energy hub ambitions

Few states in the world are geographically so well positioned as Turkey. The country controls Russia’s only warm water port in the Black Sea and serves as a bridge between east and west. Therefore, during the Cold War Ankara was an indispensable member of NATO. More recently, Turkey has the ambition to become an energy hub for Middle Eastern and Caspian energy. Ankara has had mixed successes in attracting investors and maintaining political stability.

After Israel’s significant discoveries, a U.S. backed initiative presented Turkey as an energy hub. Although a land pipeline is the cheapest option to transport gas from the Mediterranean to Europe, political developments have stalled construction. President Erdogan’s escalating public denunciations of Israel have made Jerusalem look for other options. Furthermore, relations with Europe have also been damaged which would be dependent on Turkey as a transit country.

Egypt as the regional gas hub

Egypt’s has the third largest gas reserves in Africa. Therefore, its export-oriented LNG industry came on-stream in 2004 but was shut mid-2013 due to a lack of resources. The growth of the domestic market demanded ever larger volumes, which went at the expense of exports. Instead, Egypt started importing LNG. However, the discovery of the massive Zohr gas field, the largest in the Eastern Mediterranean, has turned around the situation. Egypt imported its last shipment of LNG in September 2018.

Although relations between Egypt and Israel are far from normal, privately held companies have been able to strike a deal. Starting from the first quarter of 2019, in 10 years 64 bcm worth $10 billion will be delivered. The agreement has stirred controversy in Egypt, which until recently was exporting to Israel. However, with this deal, Cairo comes closer in becoming an energy hub.

The recent signing of another agreement, this time with Nicosia to develop a subsea pipeline from Cyprus’ Aphrodite gas field, has been another important step. Cypriot gas will be pumped 400 miles (645 kilometers) to the south to Egypt’s LNG facilities. Difficult relations with Nicosia’s northern neighbors make a pipeline to the north highly unlikely.

Cairo has been able to act pragmatically concerning its relations with its neighbors such as Israel while taking advantage of the limited amount of options for exporting gas. The obvious winner in this context has been Egypt and its LNG industry. Its chances of becoming the regional energy hub instead of Turkey have significantly increased.

Turkey’s hope for luck

All littoral states of the Eastern Mediterranean struck ‘gold’ in the shape of natural gas except for Turkey. Ankara strongly opposes the exploitation of the gas resources in the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Cyprus without a sharing agreement with Northern Cyprus’ Turkish inhabitants. The Turkish Navy prevented ships from Italy’s Eni from performing exploratory drilling off the coast of the Republic of Cyprus.

In search of its own luck, Ankara has set up a project to start looking for gas in the EEZ of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognized by Turkey. Kudret Özersay, TRNC deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, proclaimed the desire to turn the TRNC into an energy and electricity hub. However, it seems unlikely that investors will be willing to participate due to political and legal reasons.

The legal situation of the TRNC is an impediment to any major decision involving a longtime commitment worth billions. From an international point of view, the region is de jure part of the Republic of Cyprus, despite holding no control over the region. The TRNC holds no seat in the WTO.

Large investments require solid legal and political support for companies to earn back their investments. The current economic situation of Turkey makes it dependent on foreign money. However, stringent due diligence rules could impede some international banks in lending the necessary funds.

The Eastern Mediterranean Sea basin promises great rewards, but the risks are also high. With Turkey potentially being the only country that doesn’t profit from the gas bonanza, Ankara has acted aggressively to get what it regards as its fair share. However, it faces a united front from the other littoral states of the Eastern Mediterranean. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Turkey will be able to profit in the same way as Cyprus, Egypt or Israel.

By Vanand Meliksetian for Oilprice.com

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