Russia ended their ignonimous run in Euro 2016 yesterday with a 3-0 loss to Wales. It capped off their time in France marked as much by poor fan behavior as poor performances. But don’t let the trouble in the stands and on the streets fool you— Russia on-pitch showing was bad. Really, really bad.
Naturally, reactions back home have been less than positive. Several high-ranking government officials expressed outrage at the early exit, with the head of the sports committee in the Russian Parliament calling for all the squad members to be fired and the team to be rebuilt from scratch. Several newspapers ran with the headline “Tou-Losers,” which, if nothing else, shows that Russians can still enjoy a good Dad Joke even in the midst of grief. Meanwhile, many Russians coped with the team’s poor performance the way any modern football fans does— with memes.
As questions swirl around the national team and the country’s football culture as a whole, some believe they know how to make Russia a force to be reckoned with on the pitch. The solution, my friends, is communism.
Gennady Zyuganov, leader of Russia’s Communist Party, called the national team “soft” as he insisted on a return to Soviet ideals to make the team stronger.
“We need a Stalinist mobilisation. Mental, physical hard strength. Why does the national team perform like this, when 11 millionaires are running around the field with half-bent legs, who want to earn a lot and don’t want to work like a real athlete should?”
The linked Guardian article also quoted a fan who seemed amenable, saying that national pride motivated the old Soviet Union team.
Somehow this isn’t the most extreme viewpoint being thrown around in Russia at the moment. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the country’s nationalist party, suggested that the current crop of Russian internationals should be replaced with Ukrainian separatists. “They’ll win any championship. We need people who are pissed off. And namely with a national motive.”
Stories like this make you grateful that Donald Trump hasn’t taken an interest in the USMNT. (Yet.)