Russia fan world cup
© Carl Recine / Reuters
A Russian football fan during the FIFA World Cup in Sochi, Russia. July 7, 2018
A journalist from the leading German paper Die Welt has criticized the media for painting an unfairly grim picture of Russia during the FIFA World Cup and for boycotting the tournament. She called this an example of hubris.

Die Welt reporter Kathrin Spoerr called out the press on what she believes is the unfair treatment of Russia during the nation's hosting of the World Cup. The journalist says she is thrilled to see the final game on Sunday, but also recalls how the German media was riddled with negative stories on Russia, and how some of her colleagues declared 'private boycotts' of the tournament for political reasons.

"Ahead of the final, I'm wondering about two things. First, will I have enough popcorn? Second, what horrible stories on Russia will be reported before the kick-off?" Spoerr wrote on Saturday.

Writing about the prevalence of Russia-bashing and fearmongering ahead of the World Cup, Spoerr noted how "amused" she was by the fact that her colleague had just recently 'discovered' that "the Russians had learned to laugh" during the games. "Look, the savages can laugh," she sarcastically writes.

When Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006, people celebrated in Berlin and Munich the same way they are celebrating in Kazan and St. Petersburg, because "it's summer and the World Cup is awesome," the journalist recalled, adding with irony: "Certainly, a few Russian journalists were present at the time. I wonder whether they were just as surprised by the sight of laughing Germans."

However, things were not always this way, Spoerr notes: "There was a time when Helmut Kohl and Boris Yelstin sat together in a sauna to talk and decide how to overcome the Cold War. But soon after Kohl's departure, we snapped back into the old German habit of imagining Russia is a country with low morals, and even as a nation unworthy of the World Cup." The journalist added that such an attitude towards Russia amounts to "hubris."

Determining who should host the games based on morals and politics is wrong, she writes. "If the World Cup were awarded on the criteria of political morality, it would be difficult for FIFA to find a suitable host in the future," Spoerr explained. "Neither Turkey, nor Hungary, Italy, Japan, France, Great Britain, the US, Australia, and Africa would qualify since everyone is resting on dead bodies from their past."

Some journalists and public figures continued to advocate some forms of boycott - even several weeks into the tournament. Recently, the editor-in-chief of another famed German paper Bild lashed out at German football legend Lothar Matthaus for meeting Russian leader Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin and shaking his "bloody hand" for "propaganda" purposes.

Officials in the UK, meanwhile, have been boycotting the World Cup in order "not to legitimize Putin's regime," even demanding that the remaining games be played outside Russia.

The grim images portrayed in the Western media often contrast with the impression that ordinary fans have got while visiting Russia, many of whom enjoyed the atmosphere and praised the hosts for their hospitality and behavior toward foreigners.