Abramovich, Chelsea And The Politics Of Soccer

Ozodinukwe Okenwa

Ozodinukwe Okenwa

The Chelsea Football Club is based in London. Stamford Bridge is their ‘den’. The team is a household international soccer brand. It has won many national and international trophies — Premier League, FA Cup, Community Shield, Europa League, UEFA Champions League etc. Chelsea was owned by one Russian benevolent billionaire named Roman Abramovich. The club has many foreigners, players and the coaching crew, including Africans. Many black Africans had made name and big money for themselves playing for the club in different epochs.

Founded in May 19, 1905, Chelsea Football Club has asserted itself a force to reckon with in elite global club football. But it never witnessed a massive boost in its global weight in her 117 years history until the Russian lanky oligarch with huge fiscal resources to spare bought it for £140 million back in 2003.

Names like Didier Drogba, Obi John Mikel, Victor Moses, Celestine Babayaro, Samuel Eto’o, Michael Essien and many others ring a bell because of their Chelsea soccer exploits. The club rakes in millions of Pound Sterlings week in week out.

Now there is ‘trouble’ in Stamford Bridge following the controversial Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, a sovereign independent pro-European country. The global solidarity has soared with staggering sanctions imposed on President Vladimir Putin and his aggressor-country.

The nuclear superpower has not achieved its primary objective of invading Ukraine and removing the democratically-elected government led by the youthful Volodymyr Zelensky. For Putin it was a ‘special military operation’ aimed at “demilitarising” and de-Nazifying” Ukraine!

One of the consequences of the Putin’s mad war in Ukraine is the British government’s decision to freeze the assets of Russian oligarchs including Abramovich. His closeness to the Russian political establishment must have informed the British harsh decision. His proprietorship of Chelsea was therefore annulled!

Sensing danger, prior to the state seizure, the Russian business mogul had sought to sell off the lucrative club after smartly handing off the management of the team to a Foundation. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his imperial conservative government thought otherwise by wielding the big stick, taking complete control of the club and leaving no room for any manoeuvre.

The ‘Putinic’ absurd decision to invade Ukraine has left Russia globally isolated, with the dictator becoming a pariah among world leaders. Thousands of Russian soldiers had been brought back home in bodybags and thousands more wounded. The Ukrainian critical infrastructural facilities including schools, hospitals, hotels and government buildings and business premises had not been spared of indiscriminate bombardments and shellings.

Millions of refugees from Ukraine are still knocking on doors outside Ukraine, flooding to Poland, Moldova, Lithuania and elsewhere across Europe. Russia’s mission in Ukraine is murderous, destructive and mindlessly cruel. But the good side to the terror and horror we are being served on Television on a daily basis is that the people of Ukraine are resisting and defying the Russian military armada heroically.

Now, politics remains politics and sports in general and soccer in particular are ordinarily outside the orbit of politics. Yet, we are living in extraordinary times with the Russian military aggression laying waste to a hitherto beautiful peaceful country.

The West led by Uncle Sam appear poised to hit back at Putin by targetting foreign revenues that aid and abet his military killing machine. Politics, of course, has something to do with sports. As the war drags on in Ukraine with body bags and collateral damages piling up life in general has been forced to a brutal halt in Kiev and other cities and towns.

As Putin the bloody dictator and his war Generals intensified their bombardments and artillery fire every existential activity including soccer has been put in abeyance. The Ukrainian thriving Ivory Towers and professional league championship has suffered enormously. Nothing is happening socially and politico-economically since February 24th. The President is busy leading his gallant troops to keep the invading forces at bay.

While life is running normally in Russia the opposite is the case in Ukraine with millions gnashing their teeth and living dangerously. Indeed, Putin cannot expect the global community to applaud his criminal invasion of Ukraine. So, every action must have a reaction!

Between soccer and politics the relationship is minor. Yet in Chelsea’s case Abramovich must be made to face the bitter consequences of associating himself with a bloody tyrant.

Vladimir Putin has no serious opposition in Russia. The only one man enough to denounce his dictatorship and kleptomania, Alexei Navalny, has since been jailed on trumped-up charges. Before his imprisonment he had miraculously survived a state sponsored assassination attempt by food poisoning! Some vociferous opposition elements living abroad had been targetted, some assassinated and others chased underground.

Abramovich dances to the Putinic music by refusing to speak out against the Kremlin tyranny or the terrorism in Ukraine. But not everyone in Russia ‘loves’ Putin or agrees with his supremacist policies. He may be popular at home but opposition to the war had mounted. Spontaneous demonstrations against the invasion had taken place in many cities across the federation.

Abramovic had taken flight reportedly out of London. He must have felt the need for him to head back home now that his soccer empire had crumbled before his very eyes. What the future holds is uncertain for him and other Oligarchs like him. But Putin must ‘die’ for Ukraine to be free!

In the end Chelsea Football Club would definitely survive the politics of soccer and Abramovich’s exit. What matters most now is how to save Ukraine from the madness inflicted by Putin and his war machine. Freedom must be defended at all cost!

 

SOC Okenwa
soco_abj_2006_rci@hotmail.fr

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