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World Cup Generals and Not a Drop of Blood Spilled

World Cup Generals and Not a Drop of Blood Spilled

Monday, 9 July, 2018 - 09:00
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper
No meetings have been scheduled. Telephone calls are forbidden. The unease of the guards is understandable. They are hoping for a result that would not ruin the mood of the absolute ruler. The guards confirmed that victory was guaranteed and the listener responded with a quasi-smile. The entourage only says things that it believes will assure him. Based on his orders, they left him alone with the television screens.

The president does not want witnesses to see him during a critical time. He does not want to appear elated, emotional, disappointed or angry. He will not venture out to watch the match at the stadium. It will be difficult for him to suffer defeat on his own soil and before his people and to listen to the clapping of the crowd as if they are attempting to bandage the wounds of his loss. Medvedev went to the stadium. Medvedev can play. He can win and lose. The president cannot. His destiny is to win at any game he plays.

This is a football match, not a confrontation between two countries or two armies. It must end with a victor and a loser. He is trying to convince himself and preparing for the worst.

There is no need for exaggeration. The result of the game will not determine his fate or that of his country. He does not like to lose. The idea of the defeat is stifling to him. His experiences have made him addicted to successes and victories. He has been roaming the field since the beginning of the century. He advances, retreats and makes a maneuver. He has the ball and maneuvers around his enemies. He scores a victory against them and savors humiliating them.

He has been a major goalscorer since the beginning of the century. Forget about Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar.

He is competing on the pages of history. He is competing against Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and Joseph Stalin. The White House changes the names of its players, but he remains to play, maneuver and score.

He smiles as if football matches are a substitute to wars between nations. If Germany and France face off, then the French recall the image of Hitler strolling down the Champs Elysees. If France and England face each other, then British newspapers will recall the Napoleon files and the Battle of Waterloo. It is as if countries are searching for the demons of the past and as if they enjoy rubbing salt in each other’s wounds.

He is supposed to make due with the success of hosting the World Cup. John Bolton, who does not like his country, stated that the United States will later on benefit from Russian expertise.

He is obsessed with the image: his own image and the image of his country in his shadow. How wonderful would it be if the series of wars would end with Russia’s victory on its own soil and for its players to lift the trophy. For this trophy to be placed in his office next to the trophy of Crimea, the trophy of Daraa and many others. How wonderful it would be for him to wake up the next day and head to Helsinki to shake Donald Trump’s hand at another World Cup where he would emerge the victor for the very fact that this meeting was even held.

Football and its ability to spring surprises and make heroes and stars confuses him. Young men occupying the world’s attention and rallying a whole country behind them. They reap massive wealth and enter the history books at an early age. Football becomes the talk of generals. A young player launches a shot and the world holds its breath to see if he scores in the enemy net. Power, fame, bets, tense nerves and rival fans have left their fates at the feet of players, hoping for a victory that has become tied to national dignity. How difficult it must be to be the sole focus of the fans and cameras and for your talent to betray you by missing a shot at goal.

He anxiously follows the stubbornness of the Croatian team against his national team. The first to take the penalty shot appeared to be trained by the KGB to keep his nerve, not show emotion, mislead the enemy and take the golden opportunity to take a shot that cannot be deflected by the goalkeeper. This shot breaks the spirit of the keeper and his team.

Football is a deceptive game. It has disciplined those who were deemed as strong. Germany lost early as if Angela Merkel’s government, embroiled in a migrant dispute, did not have more problems to deal with. Some have tried to find a scapegoat, blaming Mesut Ozil, a Turkish native, especially after he took a photo with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The debate over football and national sentiments was reignited.

Others retorted that if it weren’t for migrant players, teams such as France and Belgium, would not have made it to the World Cups semifinals.

Others left the tournament with their wounded generals. Argentina with Lionel Messi, Portugal with Ronaldo, Brazil with Neymar and Spain lost its way.

The British have forgotten about Brexit and they have turned their attention to a country whose regime is accused of sending a nerve agent to their land. The “three lions” have ended their years-long disappointment and Harry Kane has cemented his status among the greats. His coach Gareth Southgate has earned praise for the team spirit that allowed the group to claim victory. Britons could be forgiven for forgetting the occupant of 10 Downing Street, but not the name of the national team captain and coach.

The match wore down the nerves of the president. He witnesses Croatia celebrate the victory and its president dance near Medvedev. Putin drank the poison. It is important for him to be a skilled goalscorer in Helsinki and shake Trump’s net, who is shaking the NATO, European Union and global trade nets. The World Cup is a time of generals who have earned their medals without spilling a drop of blood. But it is only a fleeting season. Tomorrow, the world will return to the clutches of old generals, who mercilessly manipulate the world’s stability and economy.

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