MAKORI: Politics takes back seat as World Cup kicks off - Daily Nation

Politics takes back seat as World Cup kicks off

Tuesday June 12 2018

The former Premier Raila Odinga and Nation Media Group chief executive Stephen Gitagama with the jersey. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The former Premier Raila Odinga and Nation Media Group chief executive Stephen Gitagama with the jersey. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ELIAS MAKORI
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Kenya is constantly on campaign mode with alliances for subsequent elections forming hours after results of a General Election are announced.

Seldom do our leaders get time to preach development as they are almost constantly on the campaign trail.

Currently, we are seeing alliances angling for the 2022 presidential vote even before the electoral commission’s ink on the last election results dries up.

That’s why the Fifa World Cup is a most welcome distraction from the irritating political rhetoric.

Focus will now shift away from political alliances, and splits, to arguments over refereeing decisions in Moscow and on whether the new VAR technology is slowing down the beautiful game or making it prettier.

SANCTIONS ON TEHRAN

For one month, we shall be arguing over who the player of the tournament is likely to be, or wondering whether Egyptian superstar Mo Salah will single-handedly lead the unpredictable “Pharaohs” into the knockout stage.

Granted, politics tears into the very heart of sport, as exemplified at the weekend by the news that American sportswear giants Nike have terminated their contract with Iran’s World Cup side due to sanctions on Tehran by Washington, much to the disappointment of Iran’s coach, Carlos Queiroz.

But the world is waiting with bated breath for Thursday’s kick-off, perhaps the only distraction being the historic Singapore summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un over, principally, Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal.

While Russian President Vladmir Putin will be keenly following the developments in Singapore, he will be massively distracted by the World Cup in his back yard.

Deliberations at the summit will be the least of his worries when British pop star Robbie Williams — one of my favourite all time musicians — takes to the Luzhniki stage for a curtain-raising performance.

I doubt he will belt out the controversial Party like a Russian hit that drew chagrin from Moscow. Perhaps he will treat us to Millennium which sold over 500,000 copies, or entertain us with Let me entertain you that sold over 345,000.

I just can’t wait to watch his performance, and also to see what role organisers will hand Brazil’s legend Ronaldo “The Phenomenon” in the Luzhniki opening ceremony.

Presidents and Prime Ministers have, over the last few days, been meeting up with their World Cup-bound national teams to hand them blessings ahead of their trips to Moscow.

Thanks to the partnership between Kwese Free TV and NTV, Kenyans will have the opportunity to enjoy 32 games live from Russia, and free of charge, including those featuring the five African teams.

A partnership that football-loving former Prime Minister Raila Odinga acknowledged yesterday during a courtesy call on him by executives from Nation Media Group and Kwese Free Sports.

Despite his heavy schedule, Odinga will most certainly follow all matches featuring the African teams, along with those of his two other favourite teams, Germany and Brazil.

KNOWLEDGE OF SPORT

Odinga’s knowledge of sports is amazing. From his memories of the famous Brazilian squad of 1970, to his understanding of Kenya’s performance on the IRB World Sevens Series.

“I used to support Brazil because of Pele,” Odinga reminisced on Monday.

“The Brazil squad of 1970 is the best ever put together by man... It was coached by Marion Zagallo and had Pele, Jairzinho, Tostao and many others,” the ex-premier recalled, vividly.

It will be interesting to see if the Brazil team of 2018 — my favourites in Russia — will go all the way this time around, grab a sixth title and join the league of the “class of 1970.”

With Neymar back to full fitness, and even scoring against Austria last weekend, there’s every reason to follow the “Samba Boys” on NTV!