From World Cup highs to the depths of despair

When Putin threw the football to Trump, it was seen as one of those “funny” things that leaders do – it could be anything really, just as long as it isn’t actually funny, in the sense of being witty, or entertaining, or genuinely humorous.

On the day after the World Cup final, it was seen as a “funny” reminder of Russia’s achievement in hosting the tournament, which will be held in America in 2026, and as a way of lightening the mood in the room in Helsinki after the usual boring questions about Syria and cyber-attacks and all that.

To some of us it was a definitive statement that we had returned to the terrible mediocrity of international politics after a month of luxuriating in the excellence of the international football. And we noted that commentators were making no mention of the possibility that this business with the football might be an actual joke of a very dark kind – a reference to the fact that “the football” is what the Americans call the briefcase to be used by the president when he is authorising a nuclear attack.

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