We have some potentially devastating news for Socceroos fans: in response to the ongoing stoush between Russia and our international allies, the government has announced that Australia may boycott the upcoming World Cup in Russia as a retaliatory response. Here are the details.
On March 4, Sergei Skripal - a former Russian military intelligence officer who acted as a double agent for the UK - was allegedly poisoned by a Russian-made nerve agent near a shopping centre in Salisbury. His 33-year-old daughter was also poisoned in the attack. Both remain in a critical condition in hospital and may never recover fully.
In response, the Australian government today expelled two Russian diplomats suspected of being undeclared intelligence officers from the country. (This follows similar expulsions by our UK, EU and US allies.)
It is expected Russia will follow suit with tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions of its own, but that's unlikely to be the end of the matter - and Aussie sports fans could get swept up in the fallout.
During a media conference announcing the expulsions today, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop explicitly mentioned a potential boycott of the 2018 World Cup as part of further sanctions. Here's the relevant portion of the statement (emphasis ours):
In relation to sanctions, Australia already has a range of autonomous sanctions against Russia, in particular those that were imposed in the aftermath of the illegal annexation of Crimea, and those sanctions have been reviewed and updated over time, so we have sanctions against a number of individuals and a number of Russian entities. The impact of sanctions,of course, is strongest when it is done collectively, and so we will continue to liaise with the Foreign Office and other allies and partners on this issue as to whether further action will be taken in response to the deployment of a chemical nerve agent in Salisbury.
...There are a whole range of further options of action that could be taken, the boycott of the World Cup is one of the further actions that could be taken in relation to this matter.
We don't want to trivialise what is obviously a very serious matter. With that said, boycotting our participation in the World Game is going to be a cruel blow for thousands of Aussies. (This is especially true for any diehard fans who have already booked travel to Russia.)
Nothing has been decided yet, but it seems very unlikely that our Foreign Minister would mention such an unpopular possibility unless it was seriously on the table.
If the Socceroos do end up staying at home, we'll just have to adopt another nation to root for. Here are Jackson's top team tips:
- Germany: powerhouse, been huge lately, great squad.
- Belgium: great run four years ago off the back of Eden Hazard
- Brazil: because Brazil
Let us know what you think about all this in the comments!
[Via The Guardian]