Aleksandr Sobolev is the potential Ibrox killer we never heard of.
The reason we never heard of him is that he never actually played against them.
But had he been allowed to we might all know his name.
Why did he never play against them? Well, he didn’t because he’s a striker at Spartak Moscow, and they were banned from Europe before they were due to take on RB Leipzig in the Europa League.
Aleksandr Sobolev is not a member of the Russian military. He has not taken a shot at a single Ukrainian solider or civilian. He’s not a member of the Russian government, nor one of the oligarchs. He has never committed a war crime.
Yet UEFA banned him and his team from taking any further part in that competition, and they have banned his countrymen (and women) from taking part in European football competitions next year.
We are in the midst of Cancel Russia.
And a lot of people in and around sport, culture and the arts don’t think that is in the least bit fair.
Who has the right to take a decision like that, closing down any participation in the global game for an entire nation based on the actions of its government? Is there an historical precedent for it? In fact, yes. South Africa during apartheid was banned from nearly all international sports. So it has been done, and it will certainly be done again.
UEFA finds itself in one Hell of a weird place here though.
This is the organisation which claims that football belongs to the world and the game must leave politics at the door.
It’s clear that the Russian teams have not violated a single sporting regulation.
This is not about cheating, bribery or corruption.
They aren’t violating FFP.
They have done nothing wrong except be Russian.
So this is clearly, demonstrably, a political decision … and one that actually looks utterly hypocritical to a lot of people.
After all, when the West invaded Iraq without just cause, without international support or UN sanction it did not result in British clubs being banned from Europe; there is an obvious racism in the idea that white Europeans are more worth protecting than Arabs and Muslims.
The double standard doesn’t have to be pointed out. It’s obvious.
UEFA has clearly taken a side in this conflict, and most people would agree that they are on the right side.
But does UEFA have any business being on a side in this?
Because UEFA doesn’t take a side on the Israel-Palestine dispute and they let Israeli teams into European tournaments.
Is it more severe when it is Russian helicopters firing rockets at civilian areas than it is when the Israelis do it?
Is it less harsh for us to drop bombs on Iraq and interfere in assisting the downfall of the Libyan government, say, than when a European nation tries to knock off another one?
We’re the civilised world … so we should be allowed to bomb, but woe betide anyone who bombs us?
UEFA’s stance on political activism is staggeringly hypocritical and one sided, and in terms of one sided I have never had issues with it.
They want to keep right wing activists and racists out of football grounds; great.
But they have banned left-wing expression along with it, under the mistaken belief that you can’t allow one without the other.
We know what the difference is between hate speech and political expression, and so does UEFA and it is time that they ditched the contradictions and the idiocy and accepted that left-wing expression is not the same as far-right hatred.
Their decision on the Russian teams is good news for Celtic; we’d have made the Groups anyway but this puts a tin hat on it and puts automatic qualification in play for next season too.
We can all see that there are benefits for our club.
But UEFA’s foray into politics here flatly contradicts everything they have said and written and done in relation to our club and others these past two decades.
They have shot what is left of their own credibility on this matter.
By banning an entire nation’s clubs, when they’ve broken no rules, just to make a geopolitical point … well they have some balls trying to fine clubs whose fans put up a couple of banners.