Written by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick for The Interpreter
Sepp Blatter’s resignation as FIFA president today has prompted joy, derision, schadenfraude, and no end of dark anti-American conspiracy theorizing on social media. Nowhere have the results been more entertaining than among the Russia-obsessed.
Ever since the U.S. indictment of 14 FIFA officials last week on a battery of charges ranging from money laundering to racketeering, the Kremlin’s reaction to the corruption scandal has been a well-studied side story given both Vladimir Putin’s friendship with Blatter and the upcoming Moscow setting for the 2018 Soccer World Cup.
Western and Russian journalists, and pro- and anti-Putin trolls, had their own Twitter tourney on the real reason behind Blatter’s departure. A U.S.-hatched wag-the-dog scenario to distract from the NSA data collection sunset? A CIA kompromat plot against a the newly re-elected FIFA head? You be the judge.
When the scandal first erupted, the immediate concern for Russians was whether their World Cup was in jeopardy.
It's also an occasion for "whataboutism" and turning the tables:
As they have since the story broke, some Russian and Ukrainian bloggers have used the occasion of the FIFA scandal to make satirical comments on the larger issues of corruption and the war in Ukraine.
Translation: they say Blatter's next press conference will be in Rostov-on-Don.
Rostov is the Russian city next to the Ukrainian border which has been a staging area for Russian military involvement in the war in Ukraine.
Dmitry Kosyrev, a columnist for the state wire service RIA Novosti wrote a piece with the headline "Soccer Hysterics Instead of a Spy Scandal," commenting:
"It's a classic scheme of hysterical behavior (by either sex) if you land in a hopeless situation, you have to create a situation that is even more hopeless. A situation that other people will deal with instead of the hysteric himself or herself, at by contrast with which the previous story will seem a trifle. This is what we observe in the unexpected outburst of the "soccer" scandal. He simply can't distract the attention of the broad public from an entirely different scandal -- the American surveillance of about 400,000 "facilities" in Europe, and cooperation with the German intelligence agency BND."
RIA Novosti published a readers' poll in which it asks what is at the root of the FIFA scandal:
1) Stepped up fight against corruption in sports;2) Effort to distract attention of the world public from other issues;3) Attempt not to allow the re-election of Blatter to the post of FIFA president.
As of this writing, 72.5% chose no. 3 -- likely because they associated Blatter's presidency with Russia's hosting of the 2018 championship.
Even before Blatter's resignation, the government-run website Vesti.ru [News] featured commentator Semyon Chedvik darkly hinting that the FIFA scandal was cooked up by the FBI to "normalize the situation for the work of American sponsors" of FIFA.Said Chedvik (translation by The Interpreter):
"I sense that the FBI is acting in the interests of American global corporations, possibly against its Asian competitors."
The Kremlin parody account is reprising a clip of Blatter once falling down as he shook hands:
Translation: Congratulations to Putin -- the kiss of death. Poor Blatter. Now it's prison or active cooperation with the investigation.
Translation: The Americans have never won soccer -- until today.
Gazeta.ru also asked, with Nikolai Tolstykh of the Russian Soccer Federation removed, and with the resignation of Blatter, who will attend the play-offs for the 2018 World Championship which are to take place on July 25, 2015 in St. Petersburg?