If you were watching the opening match of FIFA World Cup 2018, Russia vs Saudi Arabia, you might have seen Alan Dzagoev get injured. It’s rumored that the Russian team’s star might not be there for the rest of the World Cup. I can’t properly enjoy anything because I always think about political implications. So I prefer to concentrate on people, and Dzagoev, one of the best-known and most-lauded players in the Russian team, is great for that.
Dzagoev was born in the Republic of North Ossetia, a territory colonized in the 18th century by the Russian Empire and still part of Russia. North Ossetia has its very own distinct culture and, most interestingly, is the part of contemporary Russia that scored the highest in percentage of population following paganism as their religion. 29% of North Ossetians observe the traditional Ossetian polytheism.
But besides him coming from a superbly interesting background, Dzagoev’s home town is Beslan, the city that became known across the world back in 2004 because 333 people, most of them children, were killed and over 800 injured during the tragic school siege. A terrorist attack that turned into a foiled operation by the Russian intelligence services, Beslan’s siege is perhaps the biggest tragedy that happened in ex-USSR territory since WWII. It is a large part of Dzagoev’s heritage: he does a lot of charitable work with children in Beslan, funding special sports programs for them, and making sure that local teams can make it to national competitions.
And most importantly, the fact that a man from the town that was torn apart by this terrible tragedy, can play for his country’s team (or his country’s colonizer’s team) in the most prominent competitions, is to me a sign of a phoenix rising from the ashes. Dzagoev makes me very proud, and I do sincerely hope he gets to participate in this World cup further.