Dynamo Moscow vs Metalist Kharkiv FC Dynamo Moscow

Dynamo vs Metalist: The Calm Amidst the Storm

9:40 PMAleks Vee

RPL and UPL sides face off in club friendly on Nelson Mandela Day
Mainstream media stay silent

Photo: fcdynamo.ru
by Aleks V

On a hot summer day, Russian and Ukrainian football clubs Dynamo Moscow and Metalist Kharkiv played an international friendly at the SV Seeboden stadium in Austria. Dynamo, who finished 4th in last season's Russian Premier League, are playing a series of pre-season exhibition games, and faced the 3rd-placed UPL side Metalist for the 3rd consecutive year. Football took no note of the political turmoil involving both countries, and rightfully so. The game featured no incredibly reckless fouls, no "cordons of police [trying to] keep the crowd from invading the field", and no political undertones, going against everything George Orwell wrote on sport at the international level (ironically, he wrote that after Dynamo's tour in Great Britain). The match was played on Nelson Mandela Day, further reaffirming what the late, great leader said about the power of sport to change the world. 90 minutes of football ended in a symbolic draw under the setting sun in Seeboden.  

There could not have come a better time, nor hour, nor day for this particular game. Yet coverage was limited to Dynamo and Metalist-TV's live streams and minute-by-minute reports. The mainstream media, always quick to point fingers, stayed perfectly silent. Thousands watched the game; the rest of the world remained oblivious. Why bother to report something significant and timely, even though that is the very purpose of the news?

What Orwell should have written instead is how much the media neglects to mention the good, especially involving sport in times of war or great political tension. There are plenty of examples in recent years of both government and non-government sanctioned efforts in sports diplomacy. Two years ago, the U.S. organized a basketball training camp in Afghanistan. In 2008, NBA teams trained and played against Iran's national basketball team. Long before that, the widely-known "ping-pong diplomacy" ended both a trade and information blockade between the U.S. and China. Practically every competitive sport with a fan base, from baseball to football, has in one way or another been involved in sports diplomacy. Such stories, however, are buried under massive piles of negativity and hatred, the only things that the mainstream media believes will elicit a passionate enough reaction to keep the business of journalism afloat. Non-U.S. instances of effective sports diplomacy, such as the cricket games between India and Pakistan, remain largely overlooked. If the media take no time at all to provoke and anger, it should take no time at all to inspire a peaceful protest wherein those at war take up footballs instead of weapons.

Sport is inevitably linked with corporate power, and in today's information superhighway, those with the power to be heard should spend more time addressing the obvious facts of life that are forgotten by those cut off from the truth. But every message needs not only a sender and receiver. It also needs something that'll keep the point from being lost in translation or noise, something to carry it through the most resistant of filter bubbles. Sport transcends cultural and language barriers, carrying that message loud and clear. Now all that's needed is an amplifier.

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