6 min read

Should Everyone Boycott the World Cup?

Is there somebody you work with who’s a total dick? Of course there is; it’s a mathematical certainty. You can’t tell him what you think because you have to work with him every day. You put up with his lame jokes and work your ass off while he plays video games and then takes credit for the work you did. He eats the tuna salad with your name on it, but you bide your time and wait for the opportunity to… well, to be as big a dick as he is, and get away with it.

Then he has a party where nobody from work shows up. When he asks “why,” everyone says they had other plans, but that one person — the old woman in accounts payable who has been there so long that she doesn’t care what anyone thinks — tells him that nobody went to his party because he’s a total dick and you all wish he would walk in front of a bus.

In a related note, the World Cup is in Russia this year.

There is scarcely a country on Earth that doesn’t have a reason to hate Vladimir Putin. He’s screwed with elections, he’s murdered spies, he’s invaded Ukraine, he’s bombed the shit out of Syria. Even the ruler of Syria, whose people he’s bombing to keep in power, knows that at some point he’s going to be better off letting the rebels execute him than owing Putin a favor. If nothing else, you can just look at Putin and tell he’s a dick. If you worked with Vladimir Putin, you would never ever put your lunch in the fridge. You would lock that sucker in your desk drawer and make it look like you were using it for a stool sample, so he would never want to steal it. And he would steal it anyway, just to be a dick.

So why would anyone want to send their national team to the World Cup in this guy’s country?

Let’s look at the reasons why not:

  1. Putin bribed FIFA to get the World Cup. It was enough of a scandal to make Sepp Blatter resign. Do you know how much corruption it takes to embarrass FIFA?
  2. Russian athletes dope. They dope enough that they were sort of banned from the Winter Olympics, and it was all orchestrated by the government. If you think they stopped the day they got caught, you probably also believe they’re in Syria and Ukraine looking for terrorists.
  3. Guys that piss off Putin tend to end up dead. The double agent who is critically ill in Britain was hit with nerve gas. That doesn’t just happen to people who go to the mall. If you were playing Russia tomorrow in a big game, would you let your best player go out alone at night? Compared to these guys, Tonya Harding was a Girl Scout.
  4. This World Cup is a chance for Putin to look like a big deal. It’s not in anyone’s interest for him to be a big deal.
  5. In the draw for the World Cup, Russia mysteriously got in a group that had none of the top twenty teams in the world. Going against Uruguay (ranked 22nd), Egypt (45th), and Saudi Arabia (64th), the 61st ranked Russian team actually has a decent shot at the knockout round. Putin is a bigger deal if his team becomes the Cinderella story of the tournament, and he got a draw that makes that much easier. Nothing strange happening here.
  6. While a few oligarchs have gotten disgustingly rich under Putin, and Putin himself is somehow worth billions while only making the salary of a civil servant, the vast majority of Russians have sunk into a third-world existence since he took over. When If Europe weans itself off its dependency on Russian oil, the economy will go into freefall. In addition, personal liberty is non-existent.
  7. Go back to the top and read the first two paragraphs again.

Beyond all of that, there’s substantial evidence that Russia is responsible for Brexit and President Donald Trump. Send your thank you cards to the Kremlin.

Or, we could all boycott the World Cup. Britain has actually mentioned this because Putin just had a double agent poisoned in Britain. Actually, they plan to send a team, just none of the entourage that accompanies the team and doesn’t serve any purpose except to spend money in the local economy. Economically, that’s a good move, but it doesn’t have the same bite as just not showing up at all.

It can’t just be Britain, either. This won’t involve the United States, because, well, we can’t play soccer. But if England and France and Spain and Germany and Italy just decided that they had something else to do for the month of June, the World Cup would suddenly look like the NAIA championships. TV ratings would nosedive, hotels in Russia would sit empty, and, just possibly, the people of Russia would start to question whether they would be better off being ruled by someone who isn’t a dick.

Sure, this is a pipedream. The World Cup is like having 10 Super Bowls a day for five weeks. For millions — or even billions — of people, this is the biggest sporting event in the world. Is it worth asking fans, let alone players, to give up something this vital to their lives to serve as pawns in a geopolitical conflict? Would we all be better off if sports were a refuge from all the messy things in the world?

Well, that ship sailed when FIFA let Putin bribe his way into hosting this event. Side note: they also let Qatar bribe their way into hosting the next World Cup, and they’re using slave labor to build the facilities. The reality is that it’s nearly impossible to stage an international event of any kind without involving politics. Who would decide, after all, what standards we should apply to decide which countries we “approve” of? Maybe by the time the World Cup comes to America in 2026, we will be enough of an embarrassment that nobody will show up for our party.

Still, if there was a fantasy league for corrupt and murderous dick-tators, Vladimir Putin is easily a top-five pick. Not only is he oppressing his own people, he is messing around in other countries and helping them oppress their people. When your dickish behavior starts to extend beyond your borders, that seems like the point where the rest of the world should stop acting like everything is cool. So, let’s boycott the World Cup!

That is…had we qualified, of course.

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