Next year’s World Cup is still more than seven months away, but the Islamic State is already threatening soccer’s quadrennial tournament, which will be hosted next summer in Russia. On Tuesday, a pro-ISIS media group released a chilling poster promoting terrorism using a doctored image of Argentina star Lionel Messi. The poster, which was released by Wafa Media Foundation, was discovered by the think tank SITE Intelligence Group. It shows Messi behind bars crying blood, along with the words, printed in both English and Arabic, “You are fighting a state that does not have failure in its dictionary.”
The poster also appears to play on Nike’s famous catchphrase, “Just Do It,” changing the words to “Just Terrorism,” instead.
This is not the first poster a pro-ISIS group has released pertaining to possible terrorist activity at the World Cup, which is scheduled to kick off in Moscow in June. Previous posters depicted Russia’s World Cup logo exploding along with menacing phrases, such as, “We are the one who chooses the battlefield,” and, “I swear that the mujahideen’s fire will burn you, just you wait.”
It is impossible to tell how serious ISIS cells might be with their threats. The terrorist organization has also threatened terrorism at past soccer tournaments, including the 2016 European Championship and the 2017 Women’s European Championships, both of which went off without incident.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for terrorism at a soccer stadium in the past, however. In November 2015, ISIS said its operatives set off a series of bombs around Paris, one of which exploded outside the Stade de France, while France took on Germany in a friendly. That same night ISIS also claimed responsibility for a mass shooting that occurred at a Paris concert venue. In total, 130 people were killed in the events.
Russia has been the site of several terrorism incidents over the past decades, including some for which ISIS has claimed responsibility. Most recently, the terrorist group said it was responsible for a random stabbing attack that injured eight in the Siberian city of Surgut. The assailant was shot and killed by police.
Ahead of the World Cup, however, Russia has reassured the public that it is prepared to keep the tournament safe from terrorism. In January, the head of the Russian National Anti-Terrorism Committee said preparations were “already underway” to ensure a safe environment.
“We have taken into account the huge experience, accumulated by the National Anti-Terrorism Committee and the security organizations involved in providing security for the Sochi Olympic Games, the Kazan Universiade and other huge events,” Igor Kulyagin told Russian news agency TASS (via Russia Today). “Of course, special attention will be paid to providing anti-terrorism safeguards of the infrastructure that will be used for hosting the competition, such as the teams’ stadiums, accommodation units and training facilities.”
The World Cup, which will kick off June 14 and run through July 15, is scheduled to take place across 12 venues in 11 cities. The farthest east teams will have to travel will be to Yekaterinburg, which is located just east of the Ural Mountains on the Siberian border.