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Steal an American election, steal a World Cup match — is it all in a day’s work for the Russian strongman Donald Trump praises so often and so lavishly?

Football fans around the world certainly have fresh cause to be suspicious of Vladimir Putin. Do we have to add “unofficial Russian goaltender” to Putin’s many titles now?

There on the pitch in Moscow, in the 114th minute of a drab-but-important Russia-Spain match on Sunday, Russia’s victory was sealed when Spain had a late penalty turned down. Spain’s Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos were both slammed down by a mob of Russian defenders. Yet the referee was never instructed to review the encounter and waved the play on.

Russia went on to win the game on penalties.

 

Spanish fans were in an understandable uproar. The collision sure looked one-sided, and the consequences were profound. So why no review? Where was the VAR, the Video Assistant Referee who is supposed to study the video footage and settle close or controversial calls?

Were match officials intimidated by Putin’s ruthless reputation or his prominent presence in the stands, rooting for the home team. Millions of Twitters users, and not just in Spain, needed no further convincing: He’d slammed his big, fat fist on the scale.

“Putin was standing behind the VAR officials with a Polonium Sandwich,” tweeted @HashtagObvious.

“Ref had to balance making the right decision against his abilityto touch car door handles with confidence for rest of life,” tweeted @MenInBlazers.

The one active Twitter account that remained oddly silent was one that is silent on almost nothing else, @RealDonaldTrump.

Trump and Putin are meeting July 16 in Helsinki, Sweden, for a one-on-one mutually flattering summit. After Trump gets done grilling Putin about Russia’s long-proven hack-attack on the 2016 election, the U.S. president can mention the highly questionable World Cup call.

Oh, that’s right.

On the election attack, Trump still accepts Putin’s long-discredited denials, tweeting again last week: “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!”— exclamation point most assuredly the American president’s.

Sorry, Spain, you’re a NATO ally. There’s no hope for you here.

Metro columnist Ellis Henican is the author of a dozen books including TRUMPITUDE: The Secret Confessions of Donald’s Brain. Join Ellis on Twitter @henican

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