By Andrew Osborn
MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian comic’s song which mocks the country’s World Cup team and questions the financial sense of hosting the event has gone viral on the eve of the tournament, angering some fans and politicians.
Written and performed by Semyon Slepakov, “Ole Ole Ole” imagines Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya, as the Russian football team’s new but unsuccessful manager. It has been viewed more than 5 million times on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i63jWjoAWHE.
Performed with just his own acoustic guitar accompaniment, Slepakov’s song has touched a nerve in Russia whose government hopes hosting the World Cup will give it a boost on the world stage even though its team is ranked by FIFA as the weakest in the tournament.
Tapping into the views of many Russians who regard their players as underperforming and overpaid, it predicts Russia will lose their first match 2-0.
Russia, who have not won since October last year when they were helped to victory by two own goals by South Korea, are due to play Saudi Arabia on Thursday in the competition’s opening match in front of President Vladimir Putin.
“Our team is, let’s be frank, shit,” sings Slepakov.
He describes an imaginary scene in the pre-match locker room where Russia’s players are smoking a hookah pipe, watching YouTube videos, and texting girls they met in a nightclub the day before, a jokey reference to real-life off-pitch scandals.
Slepakov, a well known TV producer, also sings of how the strain of hosting the competition has sucked up all of Russia’s resources even though “things are not that great in the kingdom.”
Thirty-two teams will compete in the June 14 to July 15 tournament, hosted in Russia for the first time in World Cup history, at an official cost of 683 billion roubles ($11 billion).
In an unusual public move, Slepakov mocks Chechen leader Kadyrov, who describes himself as Putin’s loyal footsoldier and has been accused by Western rights activists of human rights abuses, allegations he denies.
Putin in the song brings in Kadyrov to try to improve the Russian soccer team. The tongue-in-cheek lyrics imagine Kadyrov threatening the players with his pistol, cutting off their thumbs so they are not distracted by their smart phones, and suggesting they shoot themselves when they lose.
The track ends on a high note, suggesting a Russian version of Brazilian soccer legend Pele may be born somewhere in Siberia who can one day help Russia win the World Cup.
Many viewers said they found the song hilarious, but not everyone saw the funny side.
“Yet more vulgarity,” wrote one viewer who called himself Jora Sukhov on YouTube.
“It would not be so funny if it was not so sad,” wrote another, Vladislav Efremenko.
Jambulat Umarov, a minister in Kadyrov’s government, told a Moscow radio station he thought Slepakov should apologize to the Russian soccer team and Kadyrov.
Kadyrov himself, in a riposte on social media, invited Slepakov to travel to Chechnya and co-write a new song with him.
“Only one thing (in the song) is offensive,” wrote Kadyrov.
“In his song, the team headed by me lost. That is not on. Now, before the World Cup, they (our footballers) need our support. I have not lost hope in their victory.”
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)