The meeting of International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President Rene Fasel and Alexander Lukashenko amid calls for Belarus to be stripped of the world championship hit the pages of sports newspapers and websites. And while the tone of many headlines and articles is pretty neutral, journalists and politicians do not hide their emotions in their personal accounts.
One of the most discussed moments of that meeting was a warm greeting – Lukashenko Fasel hugged and gave each other a friendly clap on the shoulder. According to many sports journalists, such familiarity was highly inappropriate in the current situation. This is what some of them wrote.
“Hugging a man who uses violence against his own people. What was the Swiss Rene Fasel thinking? And this while a Swiss citizen is in prison for taking part in a rally against Lukashenko,” writes Swiss radio journalist Sandro Brotz on his Twitter account.
Umarmung mit einem Mann, der gewaltsam gegen das eigene Volk vorgeht: Was hat sich der Schweizer René Fasel @IIHFHockey dabei gedacht? Gleichzeitig sitzt in #Belarus eine Schweizerin in Haft, weil sie an einer Kundgebung gegen #Lukaschenko teilgenommen hat.
Via @andreivaitovich pic.twitter.com/scyrKgu7Zs
— Sandro Brotz (@SandroBrotz) January 11, 2021
Looks like Brotz’s colleagues share his bewilderment. Journalist Markus Häfliger shared Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s post on Twitter and commented on it. He wrote: “René Fasel, the Swiss (!) President of the International Ice Hockey Federation hugs Belarusian dictator Lukashenko. And this happened not a few years ago, but in 2021.”
René Fasel, der Schweizer (!) Präsident des Internationalen Eishockey-Verbands, umarmt Weissrusslands Diktator Lukaschenko. Nicht irgendwann vor ein paar Jahren, sondern 2021. https://t.co/5pTxlM6H0L
— Markus Häfliger (hä.) (@M_Haefliger) January 11, 2021
Another Swiss journalist, Jürg Vollmer couldn’t stay indifferent too: “If there is nothing too gruesome for you, then you can become the IIHFHockey President and hug the last dictator of Europe, who has imprisoned tens of thousands of its citizens after his latest (of many) election fraud. Am I right, René Fasel?”
Wenn Dir nichts, aber auch gar nichts zu grausig ist – dann wirst Du Präsident der @IIHFHockey und umarmst den letzten Diktator Europas, der nach seinem letzten (von vielen) Wahlbetrug Zehntausende seiner Bürger inhaftiert hat. Gäll, René Fasel. https://t.co/XMcYolHm9K
— Jürg Vollmer (@juergvollmer) January 11, 2021
This is how sports journalist Luke Fisher reacted to the meeting in Belarus capital on 11 January.
Not that anything Rene Fasel does surprises me, but just wow. Literally, zero morals. https://t.co/oNTnWueNnp
— Luke Fisher (@eurovision_luke) January 11, 2021
The head of the parliamentary group on sports of the Swiss parliament Matthias Aebischer also criticized his compatriot for his visit to Minsk and support for holding the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship here.
— Matthias Aebischer (@M_Aebischer) January 12, 2021
Canadian diplomat Chris Alexander did not hide his emotions when describing Rene Fasel’s visit to Minsk.
René Fasel’s foolish & ghoulish embrace of Europe’s most superannuated dictator is an affront to basic human rights, to democratic legitimacy & to the sport of hockey. @IIHFHockey should fire Fasel immediately before it faces escalating costs to its own reputation. @FP_Champagne https://t.co/IdX5hUXXQk
— Chris Alexander (@calxandr) January 11, 2021
MEP Karin Karlsbro called Fasel’s actions shameful and called on the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation to respond to them.
— Karin Karlsbro (@KarinKarlsbro) January 11, 2021
Hockey journalist Filip Saxen believes that after the visit of the IIHF president to Minsk and his hugs with Lukashenko, a corresponding reaction should follow.
“This is distasteful, disgusting and unacceptable. René Fasel is extremely unsuitable to lead ice hockey (or anything else) and should resign immediately. Ice hockey once again shows a lack of values, respect and compassion,” the tweet reads.
Det här är osmakligt, vidrigt och oacceptabelt.
René Fasel är ytterst olämplig att leda ishockeyn (eller något annat) och borde avgå omedelbart.
Ishockeyn visar än en gång brist på värderingar, respekt och medmänsklighet.#iihf #twittpuck #leijonat #mmkisat #belarus #humanrights https://t.co/EcMvWGjvh9
— Filip Saxén (@FilipSaxen) January 11, 2021
Journalists didn’t forget to joke about the coronavirus. Journalist at Finland’s national broadcaster YLE Petri Raivio wrote: “We don’t see big hugs lately. Unless, of course, we are talking about a meeting of Rene Fasel and Alexander Lukashenko.”
Halailua enää harvoin näkee, paitsi nyt kun IIHF:n René Fasel tapasi Valko-Venäjän yksinvaltiaan Aleksandr Lukashenkan. https://t.co/oLbRnq031E
— Petri Raivio (@PetriRaivio) January 11, 2021
However, it was not without alternative points of view. So, the Czech sports reporter of iDNES Robert Rampa spoke in favour of holding the championship in Minsk.
“The IIHF remains apolitical! There will be a championship in Belarus. And it will be beautiful, spectacular, unique and will break the audience records,” wrote Rampa.
Recall that the 2021 Ice Hockey World Championship is scheduled to be held from May 21 to June 6 in Minsk and Riga.