My experiences in Russia during the World Cup with reference to the lies and demonization by the UK government and mainstream media (MSM).
I have just returned from Russia and would like to share some of my experiences during the 2018 World Cup, particularly from an English perspective. I was in no way ever deterred from travelling to Russia but this wasn’t the case for many England supporters. They had set-off for Russia with some fear and trepidation. From the Skripal effect to the army of female Russian Nazis lying in wait for England supporters (fake news), these mainstream media (MSM) news stories take their toll on one’s perception of the country and the perceived risk and willingness to travel. This is why many England supporters didn’t go to the World Cup in Russia. Some might try to blame the low number of England supporters on plummeting relations with Russia, but make no mistake, this was politically engineered and involved years of anti-Russian propaganda.
Many travelling England supporters soon realized that their government and media had deceived them and were quite annoyed that there were relatively few England supporters in the country. I met a guy called Tony who worked on the London Underground. A ‘Diamond Geezer’. He was approached by BBC Five Live who asked him why there were so few England supporters in Russia. His reply wasn’t very elegant but summed-up the sentiments of many English supporters – “because of you c***s” he said! I spoke to a father and son from Birmingham in Samara who had been in the country since June 12th. The father only went along because all of his son’s friends ‘bottled out’ of travelling to Russia! His wife told him he had to go because she was worried about her son’s safety. They, like every other England supporter I spoke to on this trip, were having a fantastic time and were very complimentary about their hosts. They found the people to be friendly and helpful, the country to be varied and interesting, and praised the organisation, facilities and transport. I recall the after-party in Samara (following England versus Sweden) and witnessed hundreds of English and Russian people dancing, drinking and having fun together. The impromptu and multinational football match in the street beside the bar was an unforgettable experience. The words of Bob Marley came to mind during all the fun – “Let’s get together and feel all right”.
It wasn’t only England supporters who discovered firsthand that the reality of being in Russia was the diametric opposite of the story broadcast by UK corporate media. Ex-England striker and now pundit Alan Shearer expressed the general view of every BBC employee working in Russia. “I have worked on every major tournament as a BBC pundit since the 2006 World Cup and this one has been my favourite by a long way. To be honest, it might even have been the best in my lifetime. Coming into it, I did not really know what to expect in Russia and like everyone else I was a bit worried about what might happen. But everything about this World Cup has been as good as it could be – the atmosphere, the games, the feeling around the tournament – it has all been top quality” I regularly listened to the World Cup Daily on BBC Five Live while in Russia and all of the pundits (Chris Sutton, Pat Nevin, Terry Butcher, Chris Waddle, etc) were talking very highly of the tournament and being in Russia.
I was in Kazan for Brazil versus Belgium game when the UK government rolled-out Novichok 2 – the sequel. Here we go again. I felt embarrassed to be English and my utter disdain for the UK Government and MSM rose to the surface. Just like the first Kremlin poison plot, there was absolutely no evidence of Russian involvement. What we had here was more demonization of Russia for political purposes – plain and simple. This spurred me into action. I wanted to get the thoughts of local people and over the course of my stay the general consensus was “we like the English people but not the UK government and media”. On a tram in Samara, an elderly Russian gentleman came over and asked me why there were so few England supporters in his country. The conversation moved nicely onto Salisbury and one of the first words out of his mouth was “propaganda.” This was music to my ears and my views on the Skripal affair (and wider sub-plots such as how MSM reports Russia’s involvement in the Syrian crisis) went down very well with him and his friends. It was hugs and handshakes all around. On another occasion, in Kazan, a group of young people came over to talk to me and they expressed their annoyance about the systematic takedown of their country through MSM lies and propaganda. I told them what I thought on the matter and soon after we were doing some vodka shots! The timing of Novichok 2 the sequel made perfect sense with regards to the upcoming NATO meeting, the Western Balkans summit, and poisoning the Trump-Putin summit, but also served as a wonderful counter-narrative. The World Cup was going too well for certain people to bear. How shameful, and right at the moment, the England team were on the verge of a possible semi-final.
I echo the sentiments of England supporters and pundits, my World Cup experience in Russia was fantastic and will provide many lasting memories. I hope that everyone who travelled to Russia will talk about their observations and experiences, and help prevent raising Russiaphobia to hysterical proportions. I think all of the England supporters returning home will be eager to talk to their family and friends about the “real” Russia and the role of government and MSM in disseminating propaganda and fake news. They will rise-up from a consensus of ignorance sustained by a framework of corporate media monopolies and talk about Russia with love. Let’s hope this little awakening in Russia enables them to start seeing a catalogue of other crimes and misdemeanours such as the regime change agenda in Syria and UK-sponsored genocide in Yemen. If they open their eyes they will clearly see the UK political system is a cesspool of corruption and MSM is the propaganda arm of the State. I wish the last sentence was fake news, but it isn’t.
Enjoy what remains of the World Cup and when its over lets’ stand-up and applaud Russia for being a magnificent host. Quite possibly, the best football World Cup ever!
Important Note: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Syriana Analysis editorial policy.
Kevork Almassian is an award-winning political commentator from Syria. He is the founder of Syriana Analysis and is known for his contribution to the literature on the Syrian war.