Is Putin the big winner of the Fifa World Cup?

Fifa President Gianni Infantino has hailed the football championship tournament that ended yesterday in Russia the best World Cup ever. Vladimir Putin announced that the world has finally realised that its image of Russia was skewed. But not all commentators are convinced the tournament was a major propaganda success for the Russian president.

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Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

No room for politics and problems

For Corriere del Ticino the World Cup took place in a bubble:

“With France's victory and the party at the Luzhniki Stadium a World Cup that, as Gianni Infantino said, was 'more beautiful than ever' came to an end. The Fifa president's narrative is no doubt exaggerated and the result of his very close ties to Russia and in particular Vladimir Putin. There was no room for politics and problems in the bubble that enclosed the World Cup and its protagonists. No mention was made of Putin's opponents or the many imprisoned journalists or human rights abuses or the Ukraine issue. The Russian president has won his game. He can now welcome Donald Trump having staged a perfect World Cup and propped up by a general consensus.”

L'Obs (FR) /

Russia didn't need to win

The World Cup has conveyed a distorted picture of reality, writes journalist Pierre Haski in L'Obs:

“This is the reflection of a new world in which the disruptors of the international order are able to survive and even thrive. It must be said that Vladimir Putin is also benefitting from the dismantling of what was once called 'the West' - a process which he himself has contributed to by interfering in electoral processes. ... Compared to Donald Trump, whose inappropriate behaviour the 'allies' experienced last week, Vladimir Putin can present himself as a model of stability and predictability. He doesn't even need a Russian football victory: he's already won.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Football doesn't mend rifts

De Volkskrant doesn't agree that the World Cup was a propaganda coup for Putin:

“The West's fears didn't become reality, also because Putin was barely to be seen, unlike the Argentinian dictator Videla back in 1978. So the World Cup was more propaganda for the Russian people, the normal Russian who celebrated the unexpected victories of their national team with infectious jubilation and formed brotherly ties with fans from all over the world. ... Now that the World Cup has ended geopolitics will make a comeback and Russia and the West will face each other on opposite sides. Neither national nor international rifts disappear because of a few football matches.”

Novaya Gazeta (RU) /

Time to be meek and obedient once more

The World Cup intermezzo has done nothing to change the repressive atmosphere in Russia, Novaya Gazeta writes:

“During the World Cup the state wanted to create the illusion of an open, free and well-meaning society that welcomes visitors with open arms. And you have to admit that it succeeded. But it also showed that our hospitality has precise limits. You can drink and party for as long as you want. But as soon as you allow yourself a single political gesture or statement you immediately get a rap on the knuckles - or a kick in the teeth. ... The people are not idiots. They know only too well: the party is over and the last visitors are on their way home. And we are once again faced with authorities with just one thing on their minds: how to milk the population for all they can while ensuring it remains obedient and meek?”

El Mundo (ES) /

The bar is high for Qatar

Contrary to all expectations Russia put on a first class football world championship, El Mundo concludes:

“The World Cup logistics went off without a hitch. First of all because there were no major incidents, especially regarding security: no aggression or brawls between fans of opposing teams. Secondly because of the effective use of new technology such as video assistant referees, which have helped to modernise the game. And thirdly because the stadiums in which the Russian government invested 3.4 billion euros were extremely functional. ... Qatar will host the first World Cup to take place in the winter and with short distances between venues. Fifa must now guarantee a championship that can keep the ball rolling, with organisation, security and spectator numbers that live up to the standards set in Russia.”