St Petersburg: Football and politics have always mixed like milk and water in a village vendor’s can. After a couple of Switzerland players paid a fine for making a political statement during their goal celebrations at the World Cup here, an assistant coach of Croatia was sent home for posting a video in support of Ukraine, which has been at loggerheads with Russia since 2014.
A visit to Fifa’s temporary museum on the sprawling New Arbat Avenue in Moscow on Monday highlighted how politics influenced the early years of the World Cup. Italy’s Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini appropriated the 1934 World Cup as his campaign tool. The medal with a fascist symbol every player received at the tournament was on display at the museum, as was the Italian badge influenced by Mussolini’s philosophy.
Austria qualified for the next edition in France but played as part of the German team as decreed by the policies of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government. Italy, meanwhile, kitted their team out in fascist black in 1938. But nothing could stop the Azzurri on the field as they won back to back titles.
Vittorio Pozzo, the coach who masterminded Italy’s triumphs, was also a journalist. The museum features the typewriter he used to file his copies. Pozzo took time off from his celebrations after winning the World Cup in 1934 to send out a report to an Italian newspaper. He is still the only manager to have won the World Cup twice.
The white jersey worn by a Brazilian player for the ill-fated virtual final of the 1950 World Cup against Uruguay is a remainder of the Selecao’s saddest chapter in football. After losing the match, Brazil never put on white again as they changed to their now famous yellow jersey following a nation-wide competition to design the new jersey.
A telegram sent by a German supporter from London after the 1966 final in which England were awarded a controversial goal against his country showed what a visionary he was. The fan wanted video reviews to settle close calls. His wish would come true only in 2018.
A Zinedine Zidane quote summed up the essence of football: “Everything I have achieved is due to playing football in the street with my friends.” No one could have captured the joy of playing a sport with friends in childhood more eloquently.
While the gallery was full of World Cup winners, the photos of Lionel Messi and Critiano Ronaldo appeared a little out of place as the two superstars bowed out of Russia without filling a massive hole in their CVs....