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Sportscaster's incidental mention of Alexey Navalny becomes World Cup political meme


On June 17, the Russian national soccer team’s former head coach, Leonid Slutsky (not to be confused with the State Duma deputy), made headlines in the independent media for being perhaps the first person to mention anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny’s name on Pervyi Kanal network television outside a negative context. During a FIFA World Cup game between Germany and Mexico, Slutsky had some fun with the phrase “high-pressure soccer” (which uses an adjective identical to Navalny’s surname), wondering aloud if Navalny plays soccer. “That would be interesting to see,” Slutsky remarked.

The next day, Slutsky and Viktor Gusev announced a game between Tunisia and England. This time, nobody mentioned Navalny, but it wasn’t long before jokesters on Twitter began supplying their own fictional Slutsky observations, recasting his commentary as biting social criticisms about political prisoners, the pension age, and more. Thus a meme was born.

Photo on front page: Richard Sellers / EMPICS Sport / Scanpix / LETA