England or Croatia? Moscow can’t choose a side


Soccer Football - World Cup - Round of 16 - Spain vs Russia - Moscow, Russia ...
Soccer Football - World Cup - Round of 16 - Spain vs Russia - Moscow, Russia - July 1, 2018. Russian supporters celebrate the victory. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

In Summary

  • Just hours to the mouthwatering semifinal pitting 1966 champions England and 1998 semi-finalists Croatia, Russians in Moscow are divided as to which team to rally behind
  • Interestingly, the dilemma is grounded on historical political tensions between the three nations, with recent events spicing the situation

Jacob Icia in Moscow, Russia 

Just hours to the mouthwatering semifinal pitting 1966 champions England and 1998 semi-finalists Croatia, Russians in Moscow are divided as to which team to rally behind.

Interestingly, the dilemma is grounded on historical political tensions between the three nations, with recent events spicing the situation.

It goes without saying the Russians will form a majority of the crowd expected to pack the magnificent Luzhiniki Stadium for the clash, considering the financial ability and home ground factor.

Just before Saturday midnight, Russia was penalty kicks away from a semi-final match with England. The tie had explosive potential, and everyone was talking about it here. England would face the host nation of a tournament, ‘boycotted’ by its own government.

Russia would face the declared enemy; least to say, especially after that Kremlin-Westminster diplomatic row

Two missed penalties later, Wednesday’s semi-final tie was turned on its head. Russians had a new dilemma, to choose between Croatia and England?

For obvious reasons, England is not the team to support but Russia’s relations with their fellow Slavs are far from simple.

A leaked video showing Croatian defender Domagoj Vida performing a populist pro-Ukrainian greeting after their quarter final victory stirred up the heat again.

In fact, the video earned him a FIFA censure, fueling Russians anger knowing their recent invasion of the Crimea from Ukraine.

After learning the dilemma, yours only sought an opinion from a Kenyan born Russian, who has lived in Moscow since 1983.

“Russians work with the immediate mood. Even in a business deal, you have got to seal everything when the mood is good about it. Tomorrow could be a different affair, so I expect them to payback the Vida incident with a cold reception during the match.

“England can never be their favorite but if they can support just because a Croatian misbehaved towards them, especially touching such a sensitive area of their relations with Ukraine,” said Ojwang.

He observes, that the support may not be much pronounced, thus some of the local fans will be in the stadium as neutral football fans.

However, Britons have been arriving in Moscow in numbers since their quarter final qualification, hence the Three Lions are guaranteed their “it’s coming home” song will rock Luzhiniki.

For the Croats, it’s just 2 hours and 50 minutes flight from Zagreb to Moscow, so someone could be in Croatia at 6:00pm and be at Luzhiniki by 9:00pm.

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Story By Jacob Icia
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