Much of the debate in world football these days is about the 2022 World Cup, which will be hosted by Qatar. The corruption allegations and FIFA's subsequent refusal to reveal any details of its investigations are why an event eight years away is already in the news. Once that mess gets sorted out, the critics would likely bicker over something else that the Middle Eastern country may or may not have.
What the critics do need to focus on, however, is the long list of problems that the very next World Cup tournament is likely to give rise to. The 2018 tournament is slated to take place in Russia – a piece of land that harbors more than its share of abnormalities, both cultural and otherwise.
Here is a tentative list of issues that Russian authorities and FIFA need to address before 32 of the best international teams gather up for the planet's biggest sporting event.
While the rest of Europe has shown significant improvement as far as racism is concerned, Russia lags far behind. Instances of racism against black players are observed in the country's topflight football division far too often. A survey found out that over half of Africans in Moscow had been physically attacked in the past. Moreover, monkey taunts have become so common that people don't even report it.
Manchester City star Yaya Toure was abused just last when his team visited Moscow to play CSKA. Then, FC Rostov head coach Igor Gamula shocked everyone last year by saying that he won't sign any more dark-skinned players because they might give his team Ebola.
A World Cup attracts people from all cultures, races and ethnicities. Now imagine if someone pulls off a similar stunt during a match and the victim decides not to continue. It has happened before and it could happen again. Of course pro-Russians would say that similar things were said about the Sochi Olympics and nothing of that sort happened. Well, the magnitude difference between a Winter Olympics and a FIFA World Cup is massive.
Just as racism is a prevalent menace in Russian sports, homophobia is too. The members of LGBT community in socially conservative Russia face legal and social challenges in every walk of life. A 2013 poll indicated that a large majority of Russians oppose legal recognition of same-sex marriage and support laws discriminating against LGBT people. Would it be wise for homosexual fans to visit Russia knowing that a large majority of Russians despise their kind?
Even in summer, the Russian climate could be a bit too frosty for South American countries. Each year there are some games in the Russian topflight division where the entire surface of the pitch is covered in snow. Such weather conditions could disrupt the game – unless of course the organizers plan on installing heating system below the pitches.
Possibility Of War
At several points in the past seven months it has seemed as if an all-out war might break out between Russia and neighboring Ukraine. Granted that the tournament was awarded to Russia years before their tiff with Ukraine took the shape of an armed conflict, but the situation today is that the region is unsafe for millions of international fans to visit.