WORLD CUP: POLITICS ON THE PITCH

WORLD CUP: POLITICS ON THE PITCH

Last week, we looked at a few ways in which the World Cup reflected broader themes in global politics. During an intensive review of the action this week, Alex Kliment, Signal’s unofficial tournament correspondent, spotted two new examples of politics on the pitch:


Balkan Bad Blood

Switzerland’s stirring last minute victory over Serbia last week dripped with Balkan political intrigue. Three of the Swiss team’s biggest stars have roots in Kosovo, the ethnically-Albanian province that won independence from Serbia after a brutal war in the 1990s. Serb nationalists consider Kosovo to be historically part of their country, so when two ethnic-Albanian Swiss players celebrated their goals by flashing a nationalist hand signal (pictured above) that mimics the distinctive Albanian double-headed eagle, things got hot fast.

FIFA rules prohibit on-field political displays. After an investigation, the players escaped with a fine, but the politics didn’t stop there. After the game, Serbia’s coach said the German referee — who failed to award a penalty after an egregious foul against Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic — should be sent “to the Hague” to be tried “like they did to us.” The Hague, of course, is home to the international tribunal that prosecuted dozens of people for crimes committed during the Yugoslav civil wars, many of them ethnic Serbs.

The Bavarians Again

Meanwhile, in an eerie reflection of the broader uncertainty that plagues Germany’s coalition government, the German national squad also reportedly suffers from a rift between a faction of “Bavarians” (in this case Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels, and Manuel Neuer who all play for Bayern Munich) and the so-called “bling bling gang” which includes Mesut Özil, Jerome Boateng, and Sami Khedira. Supposedly, there is a long running disagreement between the blingers, who are all of immigrant origins, and the Bavarians about whether it was right to leave Leroy Sane, a German footballer of Senegalese ancestry, off the squad. The alleged friction comes as the conservative Bavarian CSU is split with Chancellor Merkel over letting in non-ethnic Germans into the country.

Finally, yes, German midfielder Toni Kroos’s game-winning strike in the final seconds of extra time against the Swedes was one of the most beautiful goalsyou’ll ever see (go on, watch it again, you know you want to). But it may have been a political, and not just a sporting, accomplishment: by sparing Germany the national humiliation of crashing out of the tournament in the first round, Kroos might just have offered a little relief to the embattled Merkel. The squad’s post-match rapport certainly left the team’s fans in a more cheerful mood.

People working at computers in a room labeled Malware Lab

Microsoft observed destructive malware in systems belonging to several Ukrainian government agencies and organizations that work closely with the Ukrainian government. The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) published a technical blog post detailing Microsoft’s ongoing investigation and how the security community can detect and defend against this malware. Microsoft shared this information over the weekend to help others in the cybersecurity community look out for and defend against these attacks. To read more visit Microsoft On the Issues.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Happy Tuesday after the long weekend for those of us that had a long weekend. I thought I would kick us off with the first major foreign policy crisis of the Biden administration. And that is of course, Russia-Ukraine. Afghanistan, of course, was a debacle, but not exactly a global crisis. This of course has the potential to really change the way we think about European security and about US relations with the other major nuclear power in the world. So, I would say that the level of concern is even higher and there are a lot of things we can say.
More Show less
The looming pandemic debt cliff

Right on the buzzer, Sri Lanka on Tuesday narrowly avoided its first-ever default on its sovereign debt. But the cash-strapped country is still on the hook for a lot more cash this year, which is shaping up to be a very painful one for low-income countries deep in the red due to COVID.

More Show less
The Graphic Truth: Deep in the red with China

The pandemic has thrown many already-indebted countries further into the red. The problem is two-pronged for many Asian, African, and Latin American countries. They have taken on huge amounts of debt from the IMF to weather pandemic-related economic uncertainty, while also being caught up in a debt trap set by China, which funds large infrastructure projects in developing states but often with complex or misleading fine print. We take a look at which countries out of a group of 24 surveyed states owe China the most compared to their respective IMF debts.

Ukrainian former President Petro Poroshenko gestures as he walks to address supporters upon arrival at Zhulyany airport in Kyiv, Ukraine January 17, 2022.

Ukraine’s political woes. While Russia maintains tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border, domestic politics in Kyiv are becoming increasingly contentious. This week, former President Petro Poroshenko – who was elected in 2014 after the Maidan Revolution ousted a longtime Putin ally and then defeated for re-election in 2019 – has now returned to Ukraine after a month abroad to face a host of criminal charges. Those charges include treason, an alleged crime related to his decision to sign government contracts to buy coal from mines held by Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Poronshenko, a businessman worth $1.6 billion, says the deal was necessary to keep Ukraine from economic collapse and that the charges are an attempt by current President Volodomyr Zelensky to distract from unfavorable perceptions of the country’s (currently lousy) economic outlook. He also calls it a manufactured crisis and a “gift” to the Kremlin, because it distracts from Russia’s ongoing aggression.

More Show less
The Taliban’s never-ending crisis

Afghanistan has now become what the UN is labeling the planet’s worst humanitarian disaster. Indeed, last week the world body issued its largest-ever donor appeal for a single country to battle the worsening crisis there, caused by freezing temperatures, frozen assets, and the cold reception the Taliban have received from the international community since they took over last summer.

More Show less
A newborn baby is seen being cared for in the ward of the hospital neonatal care center. The results of the seventh national census of China will be released soon, and some institutions predict that the birth rate will be lower than the death rate for the first time.

7.52: Birth rates in China dropped to a record low 7.52 per 1,000 people in 2021, down from 10.41 in 2019. This comes as the Chinese Communist Party is trying very hard to boost birth rates to revive a slowing economy.

More Show less

China’s homegrown COVID vaccines were once crucial — but they're not as effective against omicron as mRNA jabs.

What's more, with with local cases near zero for the better part of the pandemic, most Chinese have no natural immunity. That could spell disaster for Beijing as omicron surges.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, warns that the highly transmissible new variant will make zero COVID harder and harder to sustain.

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal