Russia’s several victories at Euro-2008 Football Championship led many specialists in the country to believe that football must become a part of Russia’s foreign policy. A football team can quickly become the international face of a whole country taking into consideration the fact that football stars are much more popular in Europe than any politician. Brazil can be a perfect example of it. However, there are other constituents the international image of a country and its foreign policy. Germany is a good example for that.
Russia sent Greek Swedish and Dutch football teams back home at the championship. Millions of Russians celebrating the brilliant victories of the national football team suggested a very good idea for foreign politics – football. The nation’s football team immediately became one of Russia’s central faces in the international arena.
The triumph did not last long: Russia lost to Spain 3:0. The loss became a humiliating slap in the face of many Russians who pinned so many of their hopes on the team. Nevertheless, the bronze medals, which Russia took at Euro-2008, could not help becoming a feather in the cap of the entire nation. It became Russia ’s biggest success in international football tournaments in 20 years. For 20 years many Russians were led to believe that their team could not play football. The whole world caught the buzz of Russia’s recent sports achievements.
It goes without saying that the football victory may contribute to the use of the national squad as a tool for building Russia’s image abroad. On the other hand, football can not replace other constituents of the international image of a nation. When Germany lost to Spain at the final match of Euro-2008, the German team returned to their native land with excellent freeways, affordable housing and high living standards. The Russian football team returned to the country of ruined agriculture, stagnant industry and poor pensioners.
Germany is one of world’s football favorites. This country has been the football champion of both Europe and the world three times. Italy has won the title of the world champion four times. The living standard in these two countries is a lot higher than that in Russia.
On the other hand, the Brazilian football team has been the best in the world five times. This huge country can not be an example to follow in many other aspects, though. No one can argue against the fact that world’s best footballers come from Brazil. Even if they loose this or that championship, they take revenge and win the next one. Everyone knows that Brazil practices the cult of football, which has already become a national trademark. However, there is nothing else (except for the carnival and sex tourism) that Brazil could boast of.
The living standard of the Brazilian population is extremely low despite the growth of the national economy. Everyone knows about the criminal slums of Sao Paolo, Rio and other cities of the country. About 50 percent of Brazilians live below the poverty line.
However, football pulls the nation together. It is an entertainment for those living in luxury mansions and a chance to come up in the world for those born in cardboard and plastic slums.
Brazil’s variant does not suit Russia. Russia should take Germany as its role model: to improve the national living standard and then speak about football as a pleasant entertainment.
The rich Europe can definitely enjoy beautiful games of football. Football is hugely popular in Europe, and football stars are much closer to common people there than any prominent politician. If Russia has a great football team, many Europeans will look at Russia through this prism.
Sergei Balmasov, Vadim Trukhachev