Congratulations France, well done hosts Russia!
5 months ago, 16 July 00:42
Over the past one month, the world has been united by sport — specifically the Fifa World Cup, whose final was played last night in Moscow.
France may have reclaimed the trophy after a thrilling final against a brave Croatia side but, ultimately, sport was the biggest winner. The 32-nation tournament has drawn many positives — including technological revolution introduced through the use of video assistant referees (VAR).
For hosts Russia, the competition was a major public relations coup and fitting return on investment for a nation that spent $13 billion (Sh1.3 trillion) to put together the most popular sports event.
Political tensions ahead of the tournament almost led to a boycott by some Western nations, principally England, following a diplomatic spat between Moscow and London ensuing from incidents involving Soviet-made nerve agent Novichok in England.
There were also fears of possible racist attacks in Russia with world football governing body, Fifa, warning of serious sanctions against perpetrators of racist abuse.
That the 64-match tournament ended incident-free was a huge plus for President Vladmir Putin’s administration and great advertisement for “The Beautiful Game”, football, especially in the wake of strong anti-Kremlin sentiments ahead of the tournament.
Once again, Russia has turned to sports to alter the negative perception on the country after also having spent another $50 billion (Sh5 trillion) to successfully host the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, which also hosted some of this year’s Fifa World Cup matches.
Croatian red-and-white chequerboard patterns mingling freely with the French blue on Sunday highlighted what has been described as “the best-organised Fifa World Cup ever”, which has brought more than a million tourists into Russia.
France’s victory, coming coincidentally on Bastille Day weekend, will play a huge role in cementing a nation’s fabric delicately poised against the backdrop of immigration fears stoked by terror attacks that have killed more than 250 people since 2015 across the country.
When Paul Pogba scored the third, crucial goal against Croatia on Sunday, and teenager Kylian Mbappe added a fourth, French fans watching the final on gigantic screens at Paris’s iconic Champs Elysees and Eiffel Tower were wild in celebration and united with a newfound sense of togetherness.
France’s national football squad may have succeeded where seasoned diplomats and reputable politicians have failed in providing the crucial ingredient in French identity.
But as France, Russia and the world celebrate the conclusion of a successful sporting spectacle, what lessons does it offer for Kenya?
In legendary fashion, more than 20 Kenyan MPs travelled to Moscow on a taxpayers’ junket to allegedly benchmark and learn from Russia’s organisational acumen.
They have defended the trip, arguing that they travelled to learn how developed nations like Russia successfully organise mega sporting events.
Whether or not this much-maligned trip will have a positive effect on Kenyan sport is anyone’s guess, especially given the virtually non-existent debate on sports development on the floors of both the National Assembly and the Senate.
Category: oped opinion news