Lev Yashin.Igor Utkin/TASS
Russia’s infatuation with the beautiful game dates back to the Soviet era when the traditional workers’ sport was seen as a fitting national pastime. It’s even said that former NKVD head Lavrenty Beria played an active hand in the running of his favorite club, Dynamo Moscow. The nation was at fever pitch when the USSR defeated Yugoslavia in the 1960 European Nations’ Cup Final. Soviet goalkeeping legend Lev Yashin echoed many fans’ opinions when he famously said the victory was “the only thing that superseded the joy of seeing Yuri Gagarin in space!”
Football remains the most popular sport in Russia. The country’s top division enjoys an annual live attendance of over three million with teams including Zenit St.Petersburg and CSKA Moscow making their mark in the Champions League over the years. Russia’s obsession with football will only become more energized as next year’s World Cup edges ever closer. Thousands of fans will travel to the country in the summer so expect an electric atmosphere and the same football mania that gripped the nation in 2008, when more than 70 percent of Moscow’s TV viewers tuned into the European Championship semi-final between Russian and Spain.
Police officers seen as football fans set off flares after the 2014/15 Season Russian Premier League.Ruslan Shamukov/TASS
If you’ve read anything in the Western press about Russian football culture, you might think the country is a cauldron of violence fueled by ultras
The police (with the help of CCTV) have proven that they take no prisoners during domestic Russian football matches, and the same tactics will be employed during the World Cup. So fans can rest assured - you will be safe.
Fan ID.Moskva Agency
To make life easier for the expected 1.5 million World Cup ticket holders, Russia’s strict travel bureaucracy has been greatly reduced for tournament-goers in 2018. While incoming tourists to Russia normally undergo lengthy and frustrating visa and registration processes, those lucky enough to have a ticket will instead receive a Fan ID, affording them the privilege of visa-free travel over the course of the tournament. Tickets and Fan IDs can also be purchased online, sparing you a trip to your nearest Russian Embassy. Read the full Russia Beyond guide on how to obtain a Fan ID here.
Furthermore, the 2018 World Cup Transportation Directorate has recently announced free train travel between host cities for all Fan ID holders. The arrangement, organized by Russian Railways, may also save fans money on accommodation costs, as many journeys between host cities will offer overnight sleeper cabins to passengers.
Geographically speaking, the World Cup in Russia will also prove the most convenient tournament for European fans since Germany 2006. Russia is just a couple hours’ flight away from the EU, with hundreds of flights available daily. Fans lucky enough to be based in the host city of Kaliningrad will be traveling to the heart of Europe – just a one-hour flight from Berlin!
The closing ceremony of the 2017 Confederations Cup.Marcelo Machado de Melo/Global Look Press
Just as we saw at the Sochi Olympics, Russia will use the tournament to impress the world. The event is expected to cost 638 billion rubles (around $10.8 billion), and Putin has already promised that it will be held at the “highest standard.” If the stadiums are anything to go by, it will be a great show.
The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.David Clapp/Global Look Press
For many fans, it’s
After watching a game you’ll be able to visit the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Gorky Park in Moscow, the Kremlin in Kazan, the Azov Fortress in Rostov, or a beach in Sochi. So if you’re team loses, you’re still guaranteed a great time.
Fans cheer ahead of group A match between Russia and Mexico at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Kazan.Bai Xueqi/Global Look Press
Those who’ve read any classical Russian literature will know that the winter here can be long, freezing, and miserable. But fortunately, the 2018 World Cup will be held in the summer. In Moscow, you can expect temperatures to hover around the 26 degrees Celsius mark in June and July, while Sochi enjoys frequent highs of over 30. Bring your shades!
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