The political side of sports

Conspiracy theories around F1 and Uefa are evidence of inseparability

In Summary

• Max Verstappen's Formula One has elicited a lot of conspiracies

• Uefa's farcical draw for Champions League knockout stage evoked raw emotions

Former Arsenal midfielder Andrey Arshavin draws out the card of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League 2021/22 Round of 16 Draw
Former Arsenal midfielder Andrey Arshavin draws out the card of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League 2021/22 Round of 16 Draw

If there is one thing we have learnt about politics in the last one month or so, it is that it permeates every sphere of the society. Consequently, sports is not immune to the influence of politics. 

Dutchman Max Verstappen's win over Lewis Hamilton at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to grab the Formula One title from the Briton for the first time in eight years has elicited a lot of conspiracy theories about the win, considering the heated rivalry between the two for the vast majority of the season. 

Many believe the win was premeditated and preconceived by the top echelons of the Formula One Association to deny Hamilton a record-breaking eighth title, which would have put him above German Michael Schumacher on the legendary list. 

Most of those irked were Britons, although a cursory look through social media indicates this was a view held worldwide. On the other side, however, Vesterppen's fans feel he is an underdog who deserves his accolades for the way he has stood up to a giant in the mould of Hamilton. 

Hardly a day after the controversy in Abu Dhabi, conspiracy theories were flying around once again after Uefa's farcical draw for the Champions League knockout stage. 

Manchester United fans were breathing a sigh of relief after an initial draw that saw them pitted against French superpower Paris St Germain before they landed Spanish champions Atletico Madrid in the repeat draw. 

Atletico will feel a tie against the record English champions — who are yet to win the Premier League title in nine years — is more manageable than their initial opponents, Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, who are jokingly known as 'disciplinary committee' due to the way they dismiss their opposition with reckless abandon. 

The biggest loser of the repeat draw is record Champions League champions Real Madrid, who were handed a tricky tie against PSG after initially landing an easy match-up against Portuguese side Benfica. 

Defending champions Chelsea were undoubtedly thanking their lucky stars after they were again paired with the initial opponents in their initial draw, French champions Lille. 

While some may have swallowed Uefa's explanation that there was a software error that led to Manchester United being drawn twice, others felt Europe's soccer governing body was messing around with the ties to provide some teams with an easy route to the final. 

Indeed, Real Madrid president Fiorentino Perez was unhappy about the second draw, arguing that it should only have applied to Atletico and Manchester United, rather than affecting other teams who were paired fairly in the first one. 

Accusations of bias are never far, where Uefa is concerned. For many years, monikers, such as 'Uefalona' and 'Uefamadrid' have been used to describe the body's alleged inclination towards Barcelona and Real Madrid as exhibited by questionable referee calls in matches involving the two Spanish giants. 

Noteworthy is that the two incidents are just the latest instances of the intertwining relationship between politics and sports. Back home in Kenya, politics has a negative connotation for many of us who feel it is inappropriate in certain aspects of the society — including sports. 

But as evidenced by constant wrangles within various sports federations, it is simply unavoidable.