Online definitions of the word statesmanship generally refer to respected people versed in the practices of managing public affairs, usually but not always with government associations. I’ve spotted several dignitaries giving official national representation at matches: President Vladimir Putin & Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev for Russia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, King Felipe of Spain, President Emmanuel Macron of France and King Philippe of Belgium. FIFA President Gianni Infantino is always around somewhere, but of course the guys don’t get all their own way, as President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic bedecked in her national colours cheered on Croatia, whilst Princess Hisako the honorary patron of the Japan FA, became the first member of the Imperial family to visit Russia since 1916. As the Imperial family have no political function, Princess Hisako effectively made a goodwill gesture. English representation is conspicuous by its absence, although the team are doing fine without it, having got to a semi-final against Croatia.
UK/Russia diplomatic relations can be described as frosty at best since the Novichok incident in the spring involving the Skripals. In recent days this has made headline news again, with a British woman dying from the same type of “nerve agent” contamination. A direct result of the spring poisoning was a UK decreed boycott of the World Cup ensuring NO senior politician or Royal would be in attendance. After this week it is hard to imagine that stance being overturned, and yet England has a 50/50 chance of getting to a World Cup final, the first since 1966. Surely SOMEONE should be there in an official capacity?
The Queen’s age and the fact she has to entertain President Trump rules her out, and other senior Royals I think would be excluded as well, because it may seem they condone Russian policies. Prince William is President of the FA but he has just returned from a visit to the Middle East. Princess Anne is a wonderful ambassador for British sport, but I still think she is too high up the rankings for it to sit well with Theresa May. Of course the Prime Minister has the US Presidential visit to contend with as well, along with a disintegrating government thanks to the shambolic Brexit negotiations with her own party!!! Considering the unpopularity of politicians in general in the UK, I don’t think England fans would welcome seeing ANY of them in the VIP box.
So who could possibly step up and attend a last minute goodwill gig fulfilling the role of dignitary? I think Prince Michael of Kent would be perfect. He’s not a politician but he is the Queen’s cousin, so a minor member of the Royal family. If I recall he has a fine grasp of Russian history and speaks Russian very well, perfect to help smooth out any awkwardness. Admittedly he does have an uncanny resemblance to the late Tsar Nicholas but all things considered, I think that’s a minor inconvenience.