WI – FIFA World Cup plunged into chaos due to multiple diplomatically sensitive/problematic matches

What if a FIFA World Cup ended up consisting of teams that normally have to be kept apart in World Cup qualifiers for political reasons? In Asia the 'problem team' is Israel. In Europe its Armenia, Azerbajian, Georgia, and Kosovo. Fifa are lucky that these smaller nations don't normally qualify, thus avoiding them any headache when the actual tournament begins.

But what if these teams did, somehow, manage to excel themselves and all qualified for a single tournament at the same time? Oh boy!

To demonstrate this potentially calamitous World Cup scenario I’ve tweaked Russia 2018 with the above ‘minnows’ qualifying for the tournament in place of more politically neutral sides like Iceland and Switzerland. With baited breath, the World Cup draw occurs. These are the groups that would be drawn on 1 December 2017 at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow, an event that is televised worldwide (offending groups/teams in red):

Group A
Russia
Uruguay
Egypt
Georgia

Group B
Spain
Portugal
Saudi Arabia
Morocco

Group C
Germany
Israel
Mexico
Iran

Group D
France
Denmark
Australia
Peru

Group E
Brazil
Armenia
Nigeria
Azerbaijan

Group F
Argentina
Serbia
South Korea
Kosovo

Group G
Colombia
Japan
Senegal
Costa Rica

Group H
England
Belgium
Tunisia
Panama

Group A Problem clash: Russia v Georgia. These two teams are kept apart in qualifiers, and now this grudge match will be played in Moscow in front of Vladimir Putin. That's if the Georgians decide to show up. Crowd trouble is par for the course. Or possibly a bigger diplomatic shitstorm.

Group C Problem clash: Israel v Iran. The whole purpose that Israel were moved to the European qualifiers was to avoid a clash like this! No elaboration is needed to describe how messy this could get...

Group E Problem clash: Armenia v Azerbaijan. Kept apart during qualifiers due to ongoing unrest in Nagorno Karabakh which both nations contest. Such a clash would very likely involve massive crowd disturbances in and out of the stadium or much worse - followed by unpleasant diplomatic exchanges, followed by... suffice to say things may spiral out of control.

Group F Problem clash: Serbia v Kosovo. Serbia will likely refuse to even play a country it doesn't even recognize.

Other possibly problematic permutations: Russia v Kosovo, Israel v Saudi Arabia
 
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So...

How would FIFA handle this? Would they apply the policy of the qualifiers to the final tournament, thus defeating the purpose/value of the event as being something that unites everyone worldwide, all backgrounds, colours, creeds etc etc

Or would they play these matches behind closed doors, again diminishing the value of the tournament?
 
hmm interesting thread. i know most premier league football stadiums have bulletproof glass and shit separating the opposing fans so FIFA would probably just ramp up security and crowd control tenfold in these politically charged games.
 
Unusual but interesting WI...
How would FIFA handle this? Would they apply the policy of the qualifiers to the final tournament, thus defeating the purpose/value of the event as being something that unites everyone worldwide, all backgrounds, colours, creeds etc etc
I think, given that in this case it should be a two faced question given that the tournament host country is who first determine who and in what conditions would be allowed to enter into the WC host country... Also, in this case Russia, is who should in agreement with FIFA to organize and to provide security to the public attending the WC matches.
Given that, I'd foresee, that in this case, these Russia WC matches, might cause more mayhem and political consequences in the nationals teams origin countries that on the pitch during the matches themselves...
Cause, I'guess that given that they would be high risk matches, that the arbitration appointments, would be done with utmost care and that would be dire warnings to all the National teams, their coaches and especially to their fans against any kind of undesirable or illegal behaviour for any of them…
But, again, I would foresee that even if most of the security precautions might be addressed to watch and control that their respective fans would behave and/or that they would never had the chance to meet or to cross each other either before or after the Matches...
 

Devvy

Donor
I think there would be some issues, but wouldn't really cause chaos. North Korea has played football matches against South Korea several times despite both countries not recognising each other and still technically being at war with each other. I don't see why diplomatic issues will occur, this is a sporting occasion and while there will be some extra rivalry it's not related to political developments in either country; players know they can't get involved in political stuff - it happens extremely rarely. Also, Russia has no desire to be embarrassed on the world stage by trouble at it's own tournament.

Russia v Georgia.
Crowd trouble likely. Maybe abandoned due to crowd trouble, and replayed a day later with empty stadium, or just Russia making it all but impossible for Georgians to get in to the stadium or even the country to avoid the issue.

Israel v Iran.
Due to sanctions by Iran on any participating athlete, Iranian football team probably refuses to play, Israel awarded default 3-0 win. FIFA recognises the situation and just quietly leaves the 3-0 default as the only action and continues to avoid escalating the situation given Iranian players can't play against Israel without punishment on their return home. Iran receiving a 3-0 defeat is unlikely to progress further, relieving this situation.

Armenia v Azerbaijan.
Once again, could see crowd trouble, but this would require significant numbers of both fans to travel to the match in Russia. Probably some disturbances, quickly cracked down on by Russian police (who we know are willing to take a hard line) to avoid issues.

Serbia v Kosovo.
If Serbia refuse to play, Kosovo gets a default 3-0 win, no problem. But again, I think the match would go ahead; there will be few Kosovans there, and Russia as it doesn't recognise Kosovo will likely make it very difficult for Kosovan fans to enter.
 
Thanks for the response @ Devvy but it actually highlights why this WC would become a massive hot potato:

I think there would be some issues, but wouldn't really cause chaos. North Korea has played football matches against South Korea several times despite both countries not recognising each other and still technically being at war with each other.
I don't think North Korea v South Korea is really comparable as these matches have always been played on friendly terms with both parties encouraging the fixture, not opposing it. These matches were encouraged as 'soccer diplomacy' and as part of peace overtures. There was even a talk of a unified Korean team but that didn't happen. Secondly some obscure North Korea v South Korea match is insignificant on the world stage unlike the World Cup which has billions of viewers.

I don't see why diplomatic issues will occur, this is a sporting occasion and while there will be some extra rivalry it's not related to political developments in either country; players know they can't get involved in political stuff - it happens extremely rarely.
There's a reason why these matches are avoided during qualifiers - it is specifically due to political developments. FIFA wants to avoid igniting further political rifts over soccer matches, as we saw during Albania v Serbia etc. Such encounters will inevitably lead to crowd trouble, which will inevitably lead to unpleasant diplomatic exchanges. Or maybe vice versa. Its not in Fifa's interest to associate its organization with such diplomatic rifts, its bad for its image which is already pretty battered, thus it make sense to avoid them when it can. Therefore this World Cup would pose it multiple problems.

Also, Russia has no desire to be embarrassed on the world stage by trouble at it's own tournament.
But that very much contradicts your statements below (in other words, Russia will very much end up being embarrassed if it puts its head in the sand, as you suggest):

Russia v Georgia.
Crowd trouble likely. Maybe abandoned due to crowd trouble, and replayed a day later with empty stadium, or just Russia making it all but impossible for Georgians to get in to the stadium or even the country to avoid the issue.
Russia as it doesn't recognise Kosovo will likely make it very difficult for Kosovan fans to enter.
A country blocking football fans from certain nations entering a World Cup hosted in its territory will do IMMENSE damage to the country's reputation as well as have very real diplomatic implications. It will prevent the country from ever hosting another international sporting event again - minor or major - for the foreseeable future, as well as non-sporting events such as economics and politics summits, trade fairs etc. And even if it does, many nations will probably end up boycotting them. The whole point of Russia wanting to host this tournament was to show itself as a progressive, open nation and dispel its autocratic, undemocratic image. If they do what you suggest it will have the exact opposite effect, and many who opposed Russia 2018 in the first place will feel vindicated.

Moving on...

Israel v Iran.
Due to sanctions by Iran on any participating athlete, Iranian football team probably refuses to play, Israel awarded default 3-0 win. FIFA recognises the situation and just quietly leaves the 3-0 default as the only action and continues to avoid escalating the situation given Iranian players can't play against Israel without punishment on their return home. Iran receiving a 3-0 defeat is unlikely to progress further, relieving this situation.
Iranians refusing to play against Israel would again have IMMENSE diplomatic implications and fall-out. This is FIFA's showpiece tournament, watched by BILLIONS. Somehow I don't think FIFA would allow a country to pick and choose which matches it wants to play. Also there is the issue of Racism (and Antisemitism which is an extension of that) - subjects which FIFA is VERY, VERY SENSITIVE about these days. Again I don't see them letting this go lightly. I think you're very much underestimating the situation with the 'Israel awarded three points and everyone goes home quietly' scenario. Just won't happen.

Armenia v Azerbaijan.
Once again, could see crowd trouble, but this would require significant numbers of both fans to travel to the match in Russia. Probably some disturbances, quickly cracked down on by Russian police (who we know are willing to take a hard line) to avoid issues.
This would be the first time either nation has qualified for a World Cup, at what's more, its in their back yard. Forget 'significant numbers,' instead expect thousands and thousands of fans taking the train up to Russia. And of course there are hundreds of thousands of Russian Armenians and Russian Azeris already living in the country. Your "some disturbances" are more likely to be a full-scale bloody riot !!! :D

Serbia v Kosovo.
If Serbia refuse to play, Kosovo gets a default 3-0 win, no problem. But again, I think the match would go ahead; there will be few Kosovans there, and Russia as it doesn't recognise Kosovo will likely make it very difficult for Kosovan fans to enter.
As with Israel v Iran, FIFA will look dimly on any team that refuses to play a group game at a World Cup. And secondly Russia blocking certain nationalities from entering its territory to watch its World Cup? What will this do for its already shaky reputation among Western nations?
 
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Also there is the issue of Racism (and Antisemitism which is an extension of that) - subjects which FIFA is VERY, VERY SENSITIVE about these days.

Well, given the racist abuse that black English players regularly get in various parts of the world, with absolutely no action taken, I would question this assertion. Sure, FIFA makes all the right noises, but whenever a case is brought before it, somehow nothing is done. It's almost as though FIFA were a totally corrupt and morally bankrupt organisation.
 
Well, given the racist abuse that black English players regularly get in various parts of the world, with absolutely no action taken, I would question this assertion. Sure, FIFA makes all the right noises, but whenever a case is brought before it, somehow nothing is done. It's almost as though FIFA were a totally corrupt and morally bankrupt organisation.
I agree UEFA are often seen to be dragging their feet over racist incidents, especially ones directed towards Black players and Black English players. Although this goes unnoticed in Europe, British fans are more likely to notice it and talk about it.

However I still think a whole team not turning up to a World Cup fixture based on a disagreement with the nation the opposing team represents/its politics/its government/its ethnic background and so on will be treated far more seriously, especially as this is occurring in a showpiece tournament being watched by billions therefore making it impossible for FIFA not to take any action or turn a blind eye.

Not only that. An event like a no-show may place the whole group in jeopardy. Without thinking I chose a group like Germany, Mexico, Iran, and Israel. Well if Iran don't show up, how do you think the Germans will react. I am pretty certain its government, sporting authorities, and others concerned will start discussing boycotting the Iran match or even forfeiting the whole group itself. The effect will be far greater than just Iran and Israel. It could plunge the whole tournament into disarray.
 
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However I still think a whole team not turning up to a World Cup fixture based on a disagreement with the nation the opposing team represents/its politics/its government/its ethnic background and so on will be treated far more seriously, especially as this is occurring in a showpiece tournament being watched by billions let alone the practical issue of the knock on effect on other group game.

Take the example of Israel. If Iran don't show up to the game, it becomes far more about just these two countries. It will become an international event in itself, the fall out involving countless other nations and politicians etc who will become embroiled in the row

I think FIFA's reaction would come down to one simple reaction. Did it affect TV revenue because a game wasn't played? If FIFA's revenue wasn't impacted, I doubt it would care. If it was, I think it would care a great deal.
 
I think FIFA's reaction would come down to one simple reaction. Did it affect TV revenue because a game wasn't played? If FIFA's revenue wasn't impacted, I doubt it would care. If it was, I think it would care a great deal.

Sorry I think you replied before I got a chance to edit my reply a little but I made the point of a group like Germany, Mexico, Israel and Iran. I don't think FIFA and its anti-racism stance is the only issue. A country like Germany, for example, will not sit back and allow the Iranian action to go unpunished (even if FIFA ignored it - which they wouldn't).

Not just Germany, the same with any other Western nation that finds itself in the same group as Israel and Iran.

At the very least there will be discussions among politicians and sports authorities in said Western nation on how they should proceed with the tournament, whether or not they should boycott their match with Iran, forfeit the whole group, or possibly the whole tournament on grounds of anti-racism and anti antisemitism. It will likely create a row between the Western nation in question (be it Germany, France or anyone else), other EU nations on one side v Iran on the other.

If the groups get decided in December 2017 then its very likely this process of deciding the best course of action will drag on for the following 7 months, possibly overshadowing the tournament itself
 
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Think how interesting the 1982 World Cup could have got had England got to play Argentina.

Falklands War ends 13 June. World Cup starts 13 June.
 
Think how interesting the 1982 World Cup could have got had England got to play Argentina.

Falklands War ends 13 June. World Cup starts 13 June.
The British government directive that there should be no contact between british teams and Argentina was in force until August 1982.

it worth noting that seeding was messed with in this tournament so that it would be controllable that English games in the first group stage would happen in Bilbao the area with the most spare security. This wasn't because of the Falklands but due to football hooliganism.
 
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Think how interesting the 1982 World Cup could have got had England got to play Argentina.

Falklands War ends 13 June. World Cup starts 13 June.

The 2018 WC could have got interesting, even without rejigging the groups, if Russia hadn't been knocked out in the quarters and therefore faced England in the semis.
 
The British government directive that there should be no contact between british teams and Argentina was in force until August 1982.

it worth noting that seeding was messed with in this tournament so that it would be controllable that English games in the first group stage would happen in Bilbao the area with the most spare security. This wasn't because of the Falklands but due to football hooliganism.
Of all British teams Scotland was most likely to met Argentina at '82 World Cup.
 

Devvy

Donor
Thanks for the response @ Devvy but it actually highlights why this WC would become a massive hot potato:


I don't think North Korea v South Korea is really comparable as these matches have always been played on friendly terms with both parties encouraging the fixture, not opposing it. These matches were encouraged as 'soccer diplomacy' and as part of peace overtures. There was even a talk of a unified Korean team but that didn't happen. Secondly some obscure North Korea v South Korea match is insignificant on the world stage unlike the World Cup which has billions of viewers.


There's a reason why these matches are avoided during qualifiers - it is specifically due to political developments. FIFA wants to avoid igniting further political rifts over soccer matches, as we saw during Albania v Serbia etc. Such encounters will inevitably lead to crowd trouble, which will inevitably lead to unpleasant diplomatic exchanges. Or maybe vice versa. Its not in Fifa's interest to associate its organization with such diplomatic rifts, its bad for its image which is already pretty battered, thus it make sense to avoid them when it can. Therefore this World Cup would pose it multiple problems.


But that very much contradicts your statements below (in other words, Russia will very much end up being embarrassed if it puts its head in the sand, as you suggest):



A country blocking football fans from certain nations entering a World Cup hosted in its territory will do IMMENSE damage to the country's reputation as well as have very real diplomatic implications. It will prevent the country from ever hosting another international sporting event again - minor or major - for the foreseeable future, as well as non-sporting events such as economics and politics summits, trade fairs etc. And even if it does, many nations will probably end up boycotting them. The whole point of Russia wanting to host this tournament was to show itself as a progressive, open nation and dispel its autocratic, undemocratic image. If they do what you suggest it will have the exact opposite effect, and many who opposed Russia 2018 in the first place will feel vindicated.

Moving on...


Iranians refusing to play against Israel would again have IMMENSE diplomatic implications and fall-out. This is FIFA's showpiece tournament, watched by BILLIONS. Somehow I don't think FIFA would allow a country to pick and choose which matches it wants to play. Also there is the issue of Racism (and Antisemitism which is an extension of that) - subjects which FIFA is VERY, VERY SENSITIVE about these days. Again I don't see them letting this go lightly. I think you're very much underestimating the situation with the 'Israel awarded three points and everyone goes home quietly' scenario. Just won't happen.


This would be the first time either nation has qualified for a World Cup, at what's more, its in their back yard. Forget 'significant numbers,' instead expect thousands and thousands of fans taking the train up to Russia. And of course there are hundreds of thousands of Russian Armenians and Russian Azeris already living in the country. Your "some disturbances" are more likely to be a full-scale bloody riot !!! :D


As with Israel v Iran, FIFA will look dimly on any team that refuses to play a group game at a World Cup. And secondly Russia blocking certain nationalities from entering its territory to watch its World Cup? What will this do for its already shaky reputation among Western nations?

Hey, it's a discussion forum, we're both entitled to opinions about a completely hypothetical situation! :)

FYI; there's countless situations of Iranian and other Arab athletes refusing to participate in a match against an Israeli - including at a Summer Olympics which is arguably even bigger than the FIFA World Cup. The Olympian athletes were apparently suspended - but notably weren't Iranian. Iranians face reprisals at home for competing against Israelis; I can't see what FIFA could propose doing bar a 3-0 default loss for Iran that wouldn't get laughed out, apart from an additional financial penalty on the Iranian FA. Anything against the footballers themselves would be cancelled by the Swiss courts overseeing FIFA given they are being asked to break Iranian policy/law and face recriminations for playing.

There's obviously the other point raised by a few others; as long as viewing payments aren't affected, then FIFA won't care and punishments will be minor ("play in front of an empty stadium a couple of times, and we'll forget about it."). Any of the matches you've listed aren't exactly (with all due respect to them) top tier matches, and awarding a default loss to any no-show avoids compromising the "sporting integrity" of the tournament, even if it reflects poorly on FIFA and Russia, who I just don't see caring enough. Russia doesn't even recognise Kosovo, so why would they recognise a Kosovan passport as an entry document? And again, as none of those teams are major, FIFA just isn't going to care. At the risk of referencing current politics, look at the furore over the 2022 World Cup, the "issues" in tender/award of the tournament, look at the worker situation, league stances on moving the dates of the tournament. FIFA just doesn't give a crap about any of that.
 
. Russia doesn't even recognise Kosovo, so why would they recognise a Kosovan passport as an entry document?

That applies not only to fans but also to players. Countries, that does not recognize Kosovo but had to play against them in qualifications (like Ukraine) play matches against them on neutral ground.
 
Hey, it's a discussion forum, we're both entitled to opinions about a completely hypothetical situation! :)

FYI; there's countless situations of Iranian and other Arab athletes refusing to participate in a match against an Israeli - including at a Summer Olympics which is arguably even bigger than the FIFA World Cup. The Olympian athletes were apparently suspended - but notably weren't Iranian. Iranians face reprisals at home for competing against Israelis; I can't see what FIFA could propose doing bar a 3-0 default loss for Iran that wouldn't get laughed out, apart from an additional financial penalty on the Iranian FA. Anything against the footballers themselves would be cancelled by the Swiss courts overseeing FIFA given they are being asked to break Iranian policy/law and face recriminations for playing.

There's obviously the other point raised by a few others; as long as viewing payments aren't affected, then FIFA won't care and punishments will be minor ("play in front of an empty stadium a couple of times, and we'll forget about it."). Any of the matches you've listed aren't exactly (with all due respect to them) top tier matches, and awarding a default loss to any no-show avoids compromising the "sporting integrity" of the tournament, even if it reflects poorly on FIFA and Russia, who I just don't see caring enough. Russia doesn't even recognise Kosovo, so why would they recognise a Kosovan passport as an entry document? And again, as none of those teams are major, FIFA just isn't going to care. At the risk of referencing current politics, look at the furore over the 2022 World Cup, the "issues" in tender/award of the tournament, look at the worker situation, league stances on moving the dates of the tournament. FIFA just doesn't give a crap about any of that.

Haha sorry if my reply seemed a bit combative but they were meant in the spirit of discussion :D👍

I think you are still downplaying the political ramifications though or comparing apples and pears or whatever they call it these days 😁

Individual athletes at the Olympics have and do become no shows and byes are given to the other opponent. But a football tournament like the World Cup can't be compared to that imho. As I said the tournament draw would take place in December 2017. That would give governments seven months considering what to do next, after the Iranians start making noises on the evening of the draw's completion about boycotting the game...

Even worse Imagine a Group like USA, Germany, Israel and Iran. What then?

I think it suddenly becomes very likely that FIFA force Iran to publicly state they will NOT boycott the Israel game. And remove them from the tournament and slap a ban if they disagree. The same for Serbia/Kosovo, Russia/Georgia, and the rest.

After all FIFA slapped a ban on the magnificently obscure Pakistan team for mixing sports with politics. Somehow I don't see them keep quiet in the shitstorm called (ATL) World Cup 2018 or any ATL World Cup with said scenario 😀
 
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That applies not only to fans but also to players. Countries, that does not recognize Kosovo but had to play against them in qualifications (like Ukraine) play matches against them on neutral ground.
But if Kosovo had qualified for the WC, Russia would kinda have to let them in the country. It would be a bit of a bummer if due to Russia not recognizing Kosovo, Kosovo's matches had to be played on neutral ground, i.e. outside Russia.
Would be even worse if they reached the next round, and righout hilarious if they reach the final and that has to be played outside of Russia.
 
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