2-1: Everything You Don't Understand About Russia: World Cup 2018 

David Goldblatt [00:00:05]: Welcome back to Series Two of Game of Our Lives. I’m David Goldblatt, and wow! The World Cup in Russia is less than a week away. The World Cup is an essentially communal experience. I mean more than half of humanity will be watching at least some of this tournament. And so, in that communal spirit I have got a friend, a Sancho Panza, to ride shotgun with me through Series 2. Hello to Tony Karon, Al Jazeera journalist, a former anti-apartheid activist from South Africa and first and foremost, a red. A Liverpool supporter. Mr. Tony Karon. Hello. How are you?


Tony Karon [00:00:43]: Hello David. I am good. I am recovering from the concussion I received in the Champions League final. But doing nicely thank you.


DG [00:00:50]: Maybe you should sue Sergio Ramos in court.


TK [00:00:54]: In the court of public opinion, I've already won that one.


DG [00:00:57]: Oh yes no he's damned forever. Tony you're calling in from all points of the globe through this World Cup, the kind of globetrotter that you are. Whereabouts are you today?


TK [00:01:07]: David I — if you listen very closely you can hear the sounds of the Indian ocean lapping against the Somali coastline.


DG [00:01:13]: Oh, I’m liking that.


TK [00:01:14]: I’m in the city of Barawa. Uhh no I’m not. I'm actually in San Francisco. But, you know-


DG [00:01:19]: Oh, you tease.


TK [00:01:20]: But I’d rather be in Barawa.


DG [00:01:23]: Well we'll start from San Francisco. And with us too making it all happen, connecting us across continents, connecting us to Russia 2018 and to you, is the man at the dials — our extraordinary producer, Mr. Raja Shah. Raja, are you out there?


Raja Shah [00:01:37]: Hello David. Hello Tony.


DG [00:01:39]: Yeah. So you are there. Raja tell me, are you much of a football fan?


RS [00:01:42]: Uhh I think you know the answer to that, David. I'm a newcomer, but working on the show I would say I've been drinking from a firehose. A football firehose of knowledge and lore from you guys. I'm getting there.


DG [00:01:55]: Okay well, there'll be tests and homework later, Raja.


TK [00:01:58]: We won't call you grasshopper.


DG [00:02:02]: What can we do for you right now to make the World Cup more comprehensible?


RS [00:02:07]: I mean I will say, like a lot of people I'll be tuning into the World Cup and I'm curious, what's on your minds? A week out from the World Cup, what are you looking forward to?


DG [00:02:14]: Where do I start? There are so many things on my mind, but broadly speaking they fall into two camps. There’s the on the pitch stuff, so of course I'm worrying about well will Dele Alli find space between the lines to give England half a chance of making it into the Round of 16. But I'm also really interested in what's going to be happening off the pitch, or in the words of Stringer Bell from The Wire, the game beyond the game. Tony, what do you fancy looking out at this World Cup? What are you waiting to see?


TK [00:02:42]: Well beyond the game beyond the game you know the game itself. I'm looking forward to the evolution that we're looking at now. The beautiful game that was once Brazil's became Germany's and, you know, is Brazil going to adapt and start playing like the Germans? I.e. being themselves again one day. You know, playing something that makes us all go, “ahh.” Football that's easy on the eye.


DG [00:03:07]: I know it will be nice to have a Brazil, like you say, that's easy on the eye. That's kind of easy to love. It wasn't easy to love Brazil at 2014.


TK [00:03:14]: No, and it hasn't been easy to love Brazil for a decade before that frankly.


DG [00:03:18]: But it's ok. I'm finding it pretty easy to love France. They’re certainly the people I'm looking forward to seeing myself and I'll tell you guys (whispering): I’ve had a little bet. 20 pounds each way. Unbelievably six to one for France to win the tournament. So even if they come in second I’m getting 3 to 1. How good is that?


There's plenty of stuff off the pitch as well to look forward to at this World Cup. One of the most politically complex and controversial of the last 30 or 40 years. I think the first thing I'll be looking for is to see whether Mr. Sepp Blatter actually shows up. Unbelievably he's been invited by Vladimir Putin to attend the event despite having been banned by FIFA itself from any kind of footballing activity. So if he does show up I really look forward to the conflict going on between the FIFA protocol people and the Russians who are running the VIP box.

TK [00:04:17]: The FIFA secret police. Having watched FIFA close quarters policing the zone as it were around the World Cup stadium in South Africa, that one point five mile perimeter is pretty much FIFA terrain. It's a sovereign ministate.


DG [00:04:34]: I know but you know as we know Russia is not the most consistent respecter of international laws and international agreements. I mean I think it is kind of irresistible force meets immovable object. FIFA sovereignty versus the interests of the Russian deep state. All around whether Mr. Sepp Blatter is allowed into the VIP box. And on that thought I'm pleased to say that we got someone really fantastic in to discuss the situation in Russia and Russian football.


Last week I did an interview with Sasha Goryunov. He's a Russian writer who grew up in Liverpool and amazingly has a quite a Scouse accent. On top of an unmistakable Russian bird to his voice. He started writing about football to keep up with his Russian while living abroad in London. He's still a Liverpool supporter and he's going to be a guide for us and tell us a little bit about what we've been missing about Russia 2018 and what we might see if we look more closely.


DG [00:05:38]: Hello Sasha.


Sasha Goryunov [00:05:39]: Hello David.


DG [00:05:40]: Where were you born in Russia, by the way?


SG [00:05:41]: A small town just outside Moscow. A place where they played no football but they played bandy. Do you know what bandy is?


DG [00:05:50]: I do know bandy, but mainly from Sweden.


SG [00:05:51]: Yep. Exactly. Big rivals.


DG [00:05:52] Thinking now about the 2018 World Cup in Russia it has occurred to me that Vladimir Putin loves to be pictured as a man of action. You know we've seen him wrestling animals. We've seen him taking to the ice with professional hockey players. We've seen him conducting serious level judo and karate and taking an ice bath in his y-fronts. But we've never seen him in a football shirt. I wonder does Vladimir Putin actually like football? And more seriously, how much does Russia really like football?


SG [00:06:27]: I think it's it is a country that is, you could say it’s not particularly obsessed with a single sport. And when it comes to Putin you know you can't, I think you can't enjoy every sport. Definitely his big two passions are judo and ice hockey and he's notorious for his matches. Also he's notorious for his scoring. Hmm I wonder why. But football World Cup for him is an event that I think when the opportunity arose he just couldn't, he couldn’t bypass it. So I think he grabbed it with both hands and I think also the world was a different place in 2010.


DG [00:07:01]: You know but you say he grabbed it with both hands, Sasha, but I feel like his grip wasn't that strong. Compared to Sochi 2014, where if you want to tell the world Russia is back, the Olympics is the way to do it. Football somehow seems to be almost like an afterthought.


SG [00:07:18]: Well the thing is I think it would have made sense to have a great Olympics followed by a great World Cup just to cement your place. Unfortunately as we all know the Olympics didn't quite work out as he planned even at the time because things went south in Ukraine very very quickly and those events definitely obscured any Olympic legacy.


And then of course the doping allegations which totally tarnished Sochi 2014. So I think now we're at a stage where perhaps 2018 World Cup can do a bit of face saving for Russia if they host the tournament well. To return to your original question, how much Russia actually loves football. You see I'm not convinced it loves football that much. I mean if you look at the attendances 12, 13 thousands in the top flights. If you look at the general coverage of football —  how much do Russians actually watch football? Not that much. The TV audiences for football aren’t great. You know, single percentage figures even for big matches. There was obviously a hike in popularity in 2008.


DG [00:08:13]: OK. When they do brilliantly at the Euros Yeah. And Arshavin is playing well and you know you're actually getting kind of public gatherings in Moscow kind of. You know the way you do in many cities. But for the first time in Russia you’re getting these big gatherings, happy crowds, face painting. Are we going to see that? Or is that just a flash in the pan of a kind of earlier and less crisis ridden Russia?


SG [00:08:38]: I think people will still be excited and there will be fan zones. So I think you will still see those colorful crowds. However, I think this time there will definitely be a big effort to put on the show that the country is excited about the World Cup. Unfortunately the team is terrible. Absolutely terrible. So it's very hard to get excited about it.


DG [00:08:56]: My sense is that the public in Russia sometimes can get pretty nasty about these things. And I wonder, you know, if things don't go quite right in that opening game with Saudi Arabia, you know, how do you- what do you expect? How do you expect the mood to kind of go?


SG [00:09:12]: I think the big difference is, in 2014 there were still some expectations. The performances weren’t great but there was certain confidence and a certain competence about the Russian team going into the World Cup. Whereas this time there's really none of that. So I think expectations are rock bottom. To be honest I think if Russia somehow gets out of the group there would be massive national celebrations because I think this is possibly the best thing they can aim for at the moment. Because certainly on paper I mean even if you compare them to Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia played some fantastic football against Italy the other day. And I was sort of looking at them going, Russia have done nothing like this.


DG [00:09:48]: So certainly that opening game, actually quite a lot’s riding on that. I mean if they're going to get out of the group — they're not going to get anything against Uruguay. You know, you’ve got to assume. Egypt well we'll see what state Mo Salah is in but you know quite a challenge. They need, you know they need to win their opening game. They can't really afford to go out and kind of scratch out a draw if they're serious. How will that play do you think?


SG [00:10:13]: I think it's going to be a very scrappy game. Possibly the worst opening game of all time. I'm sorry for being so downbeat. But really there’s no other way. And maybe, maybe they might scrape a one nil. Thing is, if it suddenly becomes massive that they actually have to win it, then this is extra pressure for a team that hasn't really shown any glimmers of progress in years.


DG [00:10:36]: Interestingly I realized myself when I first looked at the list of stadia and World Cup cities, actually how little Russian geography I knew. I'm sort of going what? Ekaterinburg? What the hell is that. And I think we're all, you know, beyond St. Petersburg or Moscow, most folks this is all new territory. So I wonder if you could just take us through, give us a little survey of some of the cities and some of the places we're going to see and what you know what we should be looking for at this World Cup.


SG [00:11:08]: Yeah so it's, just as you said, a few interesting locations. And for me probably Kaliningrad stands out as the most — almost one of the most unusual cities in all of Europe. Because Kaliningrad, for those maybe who are not so familiar with the history of that part of the world, it’s actually in the old Prussian capital of Königsberg


DG [00:11:26]: Home of Immanuel Kant


SG [00:11:27]: Home of Immanuel Kant and Euler with his seven bridges puzzle. Historically it's a very educated place. It’s, you know, it has a 16th century University. But fundamentally it's downfall eventually, many hundreds of years later, was the fact that it was seen as the cradle of Prussian militarism. And after the two World Wars and particularly the second World War as it was drawing to conclusion, the Russian troops were converging on East Prussia and they stormed Königsberg in April 1945 and it was seen as as a big prize in that region. I traveled from Gdansk to Kaliningrad on the way to Kiev during Euro 2012, and I was able to compare Gdansk which was in similar state in 1945 to Königsberg, and it was such a contrast and I felt it was quite painful to be honest.


DG [00:12:21]: What was the contrast Sasha? I mean presumably Gdansk was in better shape.


SG [00:12:23]: So Gdansk, so both cities, you know, obviously suffered from the sieges. They also suffered from the RAF bombing in 1944. But Gdansk was gradually rebuilt. But even to this day there was bits of it that were still being put back together. However when you come to Kaliningrad it's all new Soviet style blocks, there’s a few old buildings. So it's there was absolutely no effort to reconnect with the old history.


DG [00:12:47]: And but why take why take the World Cup there Sasha? If the football team is pretty poor, you know, there's not a lot to show off. What’s Russia saying to us by making sure that there's coverage of this city do you think?


SG [00:12:58]: Well their plan is to make it into some sort of a free, free economic zone. To attract businesses. So this status has been in place since 2006. But the way I look at it I don't think it's been particularly successful in attracting I don't know I.T. support, and I don’t know, shipping companies and the like. So I think possibly one of the reasons is to promote it and to put it on the map now to make sure that you know people are aware of where it is and then perhaps businesses will invest will set themselves up.


There was talk- I was talking to someone, and the area by the stadium might even be turned into some sort of an offshore financial zone or something like that because the area around the stadium it's- I feel like it's virgin land. And in fact, the fact that they built it there is a bit nuts because it used to be a swamp.


DG [00:13:48]: There's something to be said for building a free economic zone on a swamp, if only at a symbolic level.


SG [00:13:56]: Well, and I think with Konigsberg, yeah I don't think anyone's really, from what I've seen in the press and speaking to people, no one really knows what it's about. So I think all the people will be turning up there thinking, “Oh just maybe another Soviet, old Soviet city,” but it isn't. I think you have to scratch below the surface and it is it is a very interesting, fascinating place which is, I think unlike any other city hosting the World Cup.


DG [00:14:18]: Well talking about scratching beneath the surface, Saransk has a pretty extraordinary history as a city. What's what's been going on there for the last 60, 70 years?


SG [00:14:28]: Well Saransk was a bizarre choice even by Russian standards. It was met at the time with- you know I think the jaws hit the floor. The area itself, the population is very small. I think Saransk has about 300,000 people and the region Mordovia is mostly known for its walking, like Olympic walking, and its prison colonies.


DG [00:14:50]: Exactly. This is the home, one of the kind of gulags. Before you get to Siberia, this is an early gulag city essentially.


SG [00:14:59]: So essentially yes it's basically a gulag around the corner, because it's not really that far from Moscowitz. It's not, you haven't even reached the Volga yet so it's this gorgeous forest and in the forest there are prisoners and it's an absolutely insane choice of venue basically.


DG [00:15:14]: Kazan is an interesting choice. Kazan is actually the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, and I wonder if you could just explain for our listeners what is this thing with like Russia's got all these republics inside it- what's, what's going on there? And who are they? And how come their football team has been so good?


SG [00:15:33]: So this this is something that Russians often like to point out when they get accused of racism, for example, that they come from a very multinational country. I think Russia now, minus all the former Soviet Republic, still contains about 100 nationalities. So historically as Russia was expanding east they were absorbing the peoples and the you know the states that were on that side. And in fact the strongest one in the way of the Russian expansion were the Tartars in Kazan. There was the Khanate of Kazan, that was captured by Ivan the Terrible in the mid 16th century. But the Tartars as a people and even as a small sort of republic have survived ever since with their own culture, with their own religion, and now they're quite a prosperous little republic within Russia with lots of oil and natural resources which makes it a very prosperous place.


DG [00:16:21]: It's really interesting to hear you say that Russians counter accusations of racism by pointing out what is absolutely true the enormous ethnic heterogeneity of Russia. You know we're talking Ossetians and we're talking Caucasians and it's a big mix. What else has the media particularly in the anglophone global north, which is running along, you know, a story of Russia and Russian football as essentially super racist, ultra nationalist, nativist and pretty violent around the edges. How much of that broadly is true? How much of it is mythmaking? And what, if anything, of these phenomena actually are we likely to see at the World Cup?


SG [00:17:07]: Of course I mean the uh the biggest elephant in the room is the hooliganism. But those guys had their day at the Euros in Marseille.


DG [00:17:16]: Marseille 2016 where a couple of hundred semi organized Russian hooligans charged the English both in the Old Port and the stadium during the England-Russia game.


SG [00:17:27]: Yes, so Putin realized that the fans have to behave. Shortly after the World Cup was awarded to Russia in 2010. I think you very quickly realized that this is something that needs to be reined in and this is something that's not allowed to happen. So he met, say if you like ultra’s heads, and he sat them down and said, “Lads, we’ve got the World Cup. They're all up against us. We have to be good patriotic Russians here and not let ourselves down.”


This is where the state means business. And this is where the states can pull in certain people for conversations and effectively warn them in no uncertain terms, nothing happens during the World Cup. If something happens, well we're not going to just hold those guys involved accountable — we're going to hold all of you accountable. I mean to the extent that I think some people maybe may even be leaving the country for the tournament just to make sure like if something happens, look we weren’t here.


DG [00:18:16]: OK so that's the downside of the Russia 2018 World Cup. Tell me Sasha where are the good times going to be? What's the best of Russia that we're going to see? We know about the bad stuff. What’s the best stuff that's going to be on show?


SG [00:18:28]: So first thing for me is people will discover the cities they've never heard of, they've never visited. They will go to places like Volgograd and Kazan and Ekaterinburg and some of these places might be rough around the edges but I think something that people don't realize is like if you take a place like Ekaterinburg, it's in the Urals. How many foreign visitors do these people get? I mean and this is what people don't realize. Somewhere like Russia, even like you know almost 30 years after the fall of the wall, people don't get out that much. So to get thousands of I don't know random Mexicans descending on a city in the middle of Russia they'd be delighted. I mean people I think will be super friendly and people will be very hospitable and they will try to make friends with these people and they will try to see what they're about. And somewhere like I don't know Volgograd. Yes it's got its terrible World War II history but it's also got the Volga it's got the crayfish it’s got the bear. It’s also got very hot weather. But again I think, I think the hospitality and stepping out of your comfort zone, I think this is where Russia can surprise. When it comes down to people, the Russians are a good bunch and I think they will make people feel very welcome.


I think, I still think unfortunately it's a lot of discourse in the press. And you know when it comes to the troubles, when it comes to things like the events in Salisbury it kind of invokes this- people go, ah Cold War. That's it. We’re going back to the Cold War, we're dealing with KGB. Ah they’re all like this, ah those those Russians haven't changed. And you know people, even in the times of the Cold War, people are still very nice people and it’s just unfortunate they grew up under a completely different system. But now the world is changing, yet perhaps in these far flung cities it hasn't changed that much, and they would welcome something different arriving on their doorstep, even for a couple of games. And they I think will do their best to make sure that the visitors are well looked after.


DG [00:20:14]: Sasha it's been an absolute pleasure thank you very much. And I really learned some Kaliningrad (beep) today as well. That was good. Who else in this World Cup is talking about Immanuel Kant? That's what Game of Our- that’s what- the only show to bring you the critique of pure reason at the 2018 World Cup.


That was Sasha Goryunov. You can follow him on Twitter at Slasherrrr with four R’s. I think I better spell that for you. At S L A S H E R R R R. Slasher with 4 r’s. Check him out.


Tony — anything strike you about Sasha’s take on the World Cup? Do you, are you like him optimistic that Russia’s more positive and open side will be on display in these far flung cities?


TK [00:21:04]: Well, I'm not entirely sure and the reason is because I think perhaps Putin is drawing a line in the sand and policing that line in the sand. But if you think about it, where do the Russian authorities draw that line? And is it in a place where, you know, the rest of us might feel comfortable. I'm not so sure in terms of what they deem acceptable and unacceptable.


I think we could see, you know, some nastiness in a way that wouldn't suit that that narrative at all, of the kinder gentler face of Russia.


DG [00:21:30]: And I presume you are not even talking about the England defense at this point.


TK [00:21:33]: No I am I talking about, you know, we've seen football crowds in Russia hurling racist abuse at players and so on. The whole idea of what's acceptable is really different in Russia.


DG [00:21:44]: We will see. Raja, anything on your agenda from that interview?


RS [00:21:48]: Oh I mean I was struck by his earlier comment that the Russia Saudi Arabia opening game might be the worst opening game of all time. I'm curious does that sound right to you guys?


DG [00:21:56]: Oh, there’s a thought. I mean I found, you know, obviously in footballing terms it's not offering a lot to us. Saudi Arabia are phenomenally weak and hey, Russia are just about the same. Both will be desperately nervous. Nobody will want to give anything away and there really won't be a lot of attacking flair on the field. On the other hand, you know, as two of the most significant actors currently in the struggles in the Middle East diametrically opposed to each other in Syria, one can’t help but, you know, sense some kind of deep political frisson in the game. How about you Tony?


TK [00:22:34]: Yeah I agree I'm remembering - don't underestimate Saudi Arabia's ability to pull off a bizarre upset. But that said, you know, FIFA’s preceived wisdom that it's really important for the host country to progress as far as possible in terms of the atmospherics of the World Cup. And I think what we saw in South Africa was that that's not really true anymore.


In an age where the global satellite audience is so massive and that audience behaves like a crowd by talking to itself and to one another on Twitter on Facebook and Instagram it really, the atmospherics of the game are global electronic phenomenon where you know the local- who's filling the stadium may not actually matter as much as it once did.


DG [00:23:20]: I think there’s a lot of truth in that. Okay so the time has come to introduce you to our World Cup sequence: What to Watch. Raja tell us a little, and tell the audience a little, about What to Watch.


RS [00:23:36] Well first of all we got to hear the What to Watch bumper: What, what to watch and watch what what what what to watch.


DG [00:23:42]: That's a bumper? Okay well I can go with that. Tell us what happens. We now know the music, what happens in the segment Raja?


RS [00:23:49]: Right so the idea is that there's going to be a lot going on this summer on the pitch, off the pitch. And it can be overwhelming. So I want to get your guys’ take on what to look out for. Matches that you guys are curious about, storylines you'll be following, and it's a chance for you guys to give me and our listeners some pointers on what to watch.


DG [00:24:06]: Yeah. Pointers, pointers for the curious. Where to put your eyes — who to look at, what to worry about, maybe some homework to do beforehand.


RS [00:24:13]: All right.


DG [00:24:14]: How does that sound Raja?


RS [00:24:15]: Yeah, well that sounds good. And so in that spirit, what should I watch this week?


DG [00:24:20]: Well this week, because there actually isn't any World Cup going on just yet, I'm going to give you something a little bit from left field. There are no shortage of games and stories at the World Cup, but not the FIFA World Cup. At the moment going on in London, England. We have the CONIFA World Football Cup. CONIFA the Confederation of Independent Football Associations. All the territorial entities, peoples, diasporas, aspirant secessionist city states, irredentists everywhere who can't actually get into FIFA come together in CONIFA

to play football.


So at the 2018 CONIFA alternative World Cup you've got, for example, Tibet who can't get membership to FIFA because the Chinese absolutely will not have it. You've got a diasporic migrant team of United Koreans from Japan. You've got um, now how do we pronounce this, Székely land, which is the Hungarian speaking part of Romania. And another Hungarian diaspora team, the Carpathians I believe, who were spread over the western Ukraine, Slovakia, and Poland. Tony, any of those teams on your radar?


TK [00:25:36]: David, I have to say, you know, I'm sort of I'm hearing the CON in CONIFA very loudly because you know looking at the member states you know the teams that are kind of represented there I see some things that we should take very seriously. Unresolved national questions like Western Sahara or Tibet or Tamil Eelam.  Now the problem is when you're mixing the serious like Western Sahara and Tibet with the not exactly serious, you know look, I'm not somebody who has a default belief that the world needs more nation states. I'm not sure about this veneration of the nation state. Sorry Scotland and ho sento Catalonia but really, you know, we need to think stop and think about this. I mean why don't we have a World Cup of premodern empires?


DG [00:26:21]: Dude I am loving your premodern empire idea. Like I’m — are we having the Aztecs, the Incas, the Haan


TK [00:26:30]: The Ottomans and the Habsburgs and the Malians and the Ghanians.


DG [00:26:31]: What about the Moguls?


TK [00:26:33]: What about what?


DG [00:26:35]: I’m in the Roman Empire though man. Definitely. I know we're on the fringes here in England but I'm definitely hanging in with those Romans.


RS [00:26:41]: Alright so what should I watch? Coming back to the name of the segment.


DG [00:26:46]: Well, there's so many, there's so many things to watch. But to make it easier for you, to give you a little in, we actually sent our reporter Jasmin Bauomy to a game at the CONIFA World Cup last weekend. She saw the group stage match between the Somali port town of Barawa and Cascadia which is a kind of fantasy breakaway Canadian U.S. cross-border hipsterville invention that would include everything from British Columbia in a bio region down to Humboldt County in Northern California, if that's your idea of a good time. Let's have a listen to what she brought back.


CONIFA [00:27:22]: Ladies and gentleman, please stand up for the national anthem of Barawa.


[Music plays]: Barawa, Barawa, Barawa, Barawa


Haji Munye [00:27:34]: Hi I'm Haji Munye, and I'm from FA Barawa. Barawa is in the southwest region of Somalia. Basically the last 30 40 years Barawa has been occupied, it’s been oppressed, and we've had a lot of attacks from Al-Shabaab. Al Shabaab have occupied Barawa. So yeah, for us really, having a team represented within CONIFA is incredible. It's unbelievable. The whole football thing is good because it is positive exposure out there for Barawa.


The movement began so that we can do stuff back home. You know we wanted to start the rehabilitation process back home. We wanted to give hope for the young kids back home. A lot of them now look at the Barawa team and they say, "Oh I want to play for Barawa when I'm older." So it's incredible. Being Barawani, I love it, you know and it means a lot to all our players as well you know, because the cause is massive for them. And that's why players are here playing for us. It's a major cause.


Jordan Wilson [00:28:37]: Okay, my name is Jordan Wilson. I'm a center midfielder for Cascadia. Cascadia is a minority between the pacific northwest. So Vancouver, Seattle, Oregon, I think a little bit of San Francisico as well. It's a group of people that, I think that, would want to be an independent you can say nation. To be honest, I didn't really know so much about it before, but I've really... yeah, kind of caught on the wave. You could say.


Jasmin Bauomy [00:29:16]: All right. I'm standing here with Mr. Barawa. You've been just yelling from the side of the field giving people instructions. Can you tell me who you are and what are you doing here?


Mohammed al-Qasifi [00:29:22]: Well my name is Mohammed al-Qasifi also known as Moses is my nickname. I've got a lot of, you know, friends that I consider as my brothers in this team. Knowing each other from when we were young. So it's just it's just passion and love, support all the way for Barawa.


JB [00:29:41]: So are you from Barawa?


MA [00:29:44]: No, myself I'm Lebanese. I'm Lebanese, born in England myself. So yeah it's just love and passion that drives me through.


Brian Donovan [00:29:56]: I'm Brain Donovan. I'm from Seattle Washington. I'm a comic book writer and blogger for Cascadia Underground. I'm a part time football/soccer player. I would not play for the American football team. The goal of this entire tournament, and our organization in general, is to have that cultural association for Cascadia as a bio region. So it would kind of defeat my purpose.


JB [00:30:25]: So what do you think about CONIFA?


BD [00:30:28]: Yeah so they're bringing awareness to people that are, you know, consider themselves as an unrecognized state. So you know me coming from a Lebanese background I know how it feels to be like a small communal country in the Middle East and try to branch out. So I know in terms of that it's good. They're bringing a lot of a lot of, you know, exposure to these unrecognized states which is good. You know everyone can get a voice out there eventually.


DG [00:30:55]: Well there you have it, the CONIFA World Cup. Try and catch the final tomorrow if you can. We're recording this show a little bit early so we don't actually know who's playing in it. But you can find out and there's a link there to a stream so you can watch the match online too.


RS [00:31:12]: And I'll just mention that Cascadia ended up winning that game against Barawa 2 to 1.


DG [00:31:15]: That's good to hear. Cascadia onwards. Today the CONIFA World Cup. Tomorrow domination of the global economy.


TK [00:31:22]: I was pleased to see that among the CONIFA entrants was Yorkshire.


RS [00:31:27]: I will say if Cascadia has a team then I'm waiting for the San Francisco tech bros to field a contingent for next time around.


DG [00:31:36]: I think that's about all for today. It's come to the moment when we need to wrap it all up. We'll be back next week, the day after the opening game of the World Cup and after that, we'll be with you twice weekly. We'll be talking about the games, we'll be talking about what's going on off the field and everything that's going on in Russia. We've got guests and we've got more of the lovely Tony Karon. Tony Karon, thank you so much for being with us.


TK [00:32:02]: As ever. You'll Never Walk Alone, David


DG [00:32:06]: Haha, Raja Shah, thank you very much for being with us.


RS [00:32:08]: Thank you, David.


DG [00:32:09]: And you, the audience. Thank you too for being with us. If you are here for the first time, why don't you subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. Follow us on Twitter at @gameofourlives. This show is a production of Jetty Studios. It's recorded at The Sound Town Studio in Bristol UK. Music is by Bang Data. I'm David Goldblatt. We'll see you next week.


RS [00:32:26]: I had all sorts of Immanuel Kant material just ready to go that's now stuck in the vault