Model, Miss Russia, football expert, TV host, FIFA World Cup ambassador and Special Ambassador to UNAIDS – this is not some random list of individuals, but the credentials of just one specific person: Victoria Lopyreva, a Russian celebrity-turned-ambassador of the main sporting event of the year.
A native of Russia’s southern city Rostov-on-Don, Victoria is a pioneer in many things. She wasn’t only the first woman in her hometown to win the Miss Russia title (2003), but also the first woman to host a TV football show in Russia and, most recently, became the first female non-athlete ambassador of the FIFA World Cup. (link in Russian)
As a teenager Victoria was focused on sports and studies and, despite her looks, never wanted to be a model. It all started when her mother secretly sent her photos to a local beauty contest: 16-year old Victoria got selected to take part in the finals, so she had no choice but to attend. A few years later she won the Miss Russia title, which opened a door for her in television.
Victoria Lopyreva and Fedor SmolovEkaterina Chesnokova/Sputnik
In 2008 Victoria was invited to co-host a TV football show. The appearance on TV of a 5.8-ft tall blonde talking about football spiked public interest, linking her subsequent career path inextricably with the sport. Even her personal life overlapped with football – she was married briefly to Fedor Smolov, who plays for the national team.
With Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup, Victoria became a FIFA ambassador. “My work is basically focused on telling foreign audiences about Russia, our people and why the championship is important to us,” Lopyreva shared in a recent interview. (In Russian)
For her, football has no place in politics. She believes that ordinary people around the world have a lot in common: “By making small steps towards each other, we can overcome the ice artificially created in our relationships.” An evident example is when in 2017 Manchester United played in Rostov-on-Don, she organized a handout of blankets and set up a hotline for English fans.
Victoria at the announcement ceremony of FIFA World Cup trophy tour at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, 2017.Reuters
Combining her role in promoting the FIFA event in Russia, Lopyreva also acted as UNAIDS Special Ambassador for Zero Discrimination, garnering support for the “Everyone is welcome” message of the FIFA World Cup. She met with many football stars, including France’s Paul Pogba, Brazilian star Neymar and Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli, who supported the program.
Holding a degree in economics, Victoria is currently studying on the FIFA MBA Executive Program in Sport Management at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
With a tough schedule full of frequent flights and little time for sleep, Victoria confides that she doesn’t do much sport and doesn’t follow a diet. “I’m always stressed, eat very little and sometimes forget to eat. I’m always on the run,” she says. “I never deny myself when I crave something badly. I strongly believe that every person should follow what their body’s signals… I can eat a whole box of chocolates and then forget about sweets for a month.”
In fact, Victoria doesn’t even like dressing up. She admits that going shopping for makeup and clothes is a nightmare for her. “In normal life I tend to wear a T-shirt and jeans, and stick my hair in a ponytail.”
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