Editor’s note: Sometimes socio-political forces intrude into football and need to be talked about. However, Cartilage Free Captain has longstanding rules about political discourse in the comments and for very good reason. Please keep discussion restricted to the football related context; violations will result in comments being pre-moderated or closed.
After Russia began a full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine yesterday, the worlds of geopolitics and sports have begun to overlap to a startling and distressing degree. In response to the invasion, UEFA is one of numerous sports leagues and organizations that has begun to take punitive measures towards Russian sporting interests. This morning, in a move widely expected, football’s European governing body formally removed Russia as host of the 2022 Champions League final and moved the match to Paris, at the Stade de France.
The match was originally set to be hosted at Gazprom Arena in St. Petersburg, the home stadium of Zenit, on Saturday, May 28. However, with Russian President Vladimir Putin ordering a full scale invasion of its neighbor Ukraine to the condemnation of much of the rest of the world, UEFA decided to move the Champions League final out of Russia entirely.
There is precedent to moving a Champions League final — just look at last season. The 2021 final between Chelsea and Manchester City was set to be played at Attaturk Stadium in Turkey, but due to an outbreak of COVID-19 was moved to Porto’s home stadium, Estádio do Dragão, in Portugal. UEFA would have plenty of location options should they decide that a punitive move is necessary. It was noted that UEFA may opt not to make a decision until closer to the actual date of the final, and of course pending the outcome of actual events.
Two Russian teams — Spartak Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg — are still competing in UEFA competitions, with both currently alive in the Europa League.
I have been sitting on this article for two days now, paralyzed at how to respond and even whether to write it. We have worked hard to make Cartilage Free Captain a site that is, as much as possible, free from discussion of electoral politics and international political issues. That’s because, in an increasingly polarized world there doesn’t seem to be much of a benefit to fostering a discussion of topics that only seem to divide an otherwise fantastic community of like-minded sports fans.
But what do we do when the realms of politics and sports overlap in such a huge way? Sports and politics have always been near-neighbors; it’s difficult to disentangle the upcoming 2022 World Cup without a close examination of Qatar and the human rights abuses it fostered in the construction of it stadia, for example. That pales in comparison to a literal European war. People are dying in Ukraine, and the sociopolitical ramifications of this Russian aggression are both tangible and real. The effects do not directly impact Tottenham Hotspur or its fans at present, but the Premier League and Spurs are not too far removed from the war’s impact.
I feel as though I cannot forbid discussion of this topic, but I would ask you to do the following:
- Keep discussion of the war within the context of football, or of sports in general
- Recognize that this is an issue that has real impact on readers of this blog, some of whom are from Russia and Ukraine or have historic or familial ties to that area
Know that comments on this topic will be strictly monitored and moderated. This will not turn into a Ukraine War blog, and we will try to keep topics restricted to things that are directly related to Tottenham and/or football contexts. If things get out of hand, comments will be curtailed, or restricted, and as always warnings and bans may be handed out to commenters. Discuss at your own risk.
Thank you for your sensitivity in this matter and for being Carty Free readers.