Let World Cup fever begin. Football fans all over the world will begin today with baited breath as they wait to see who their nations will draw and where in Russia they will be heading in the summer of 2018. But how are the hosts shaping up ahead of the global soccer extravaganza? Let’s take a look.
Visas and Tickets
Visiting Russia can be a bureaucratic nightmare at times, with complicated visa requirements and seemingly masses of planning needed in order to get to the largest country on the planet. The country is admirably easing the process for the FIFA World Cup however, and the photographic ‘Fan-ID’ will make things easier. The pass is free, and fans should apply for the ID as soon as they get their tickets, as without it you won’t be able to watch the matches. The ID will take care of the visa side of things, and public transport (including inter-host city trains) are free for those with a ticket and the ID. Yes, you can literally travel from Kaliningrad to Volgograd for free, provided you have tickets and the FAN-ID.
As with previous World Cups in Brazil and South Africa, security is going to be on the minds of many fans making the journey. The issues that plagued the previous two hosts don’t cause problems in Russia, and it is pretty much guaranteed that security is going to be ramped up for the event. Vladimir Putin knows that the eyes of the world will be on his state, and the President has already come out and said that security will be ‘effective but not intrusive’. The usual adage applies of course – don’t do anything stupid and you will be fine. It will be worth keeping a lid on alcohol intake at the games, as ‘I was drunk’ isn’t likely to be a convincing defence for anything.
Potential racist chanting from the stands is harder to police however, and it isn’t clear where Russia stands on this right now. The country has gained an ugly reputation for vile behaviour in this regard, and simply ignoring it and hoping it will go away isn’t going to work. There is work to be done, and it is up to the authorities to do it.
One thing that fans will not have to worry about is stadiums. The 12 stadia that will host the World Cup could well end up being one of the highlights of the entire show. Several old stadiums have been renewed alongside ones that have been built from scratch, and all of them are shaping up to be a delight. The opening match and the final will take in Moscow’s famous Luzhniki Stadium, which played host to the first all-English Champions League final in history in 2008, although Chelsea fans might want to forget that. Poorly organised equipped stadiums are not going to be a worry at Russia 2018, provided the construction is completed on time of course.
Fans would be wise to brush up on the Cyrillic alphabet before heading to Russia, although that should go without saying. Moscow and St. Petersburg are obvious exceptions, and the Latin script is every bit as visible as the Cyrillic. Fans heading to some of the other cities may not be so lucky, although it is likely that the hosts will make a special effort given the international scope of the tournament. Much like the language, a visit to Russia will be greatly enhanced if you can get a handle on the script. It isn’t entirely necessary of course – football is the universal language after all.
Russia 2018 isn’t going to have any of the weather issues that are expected to plague Qatar 2022 either. Those expecting a snow-filled Siberian winter wonderland are going to be disappointed, as the climate in most of the cities is decidedly northern European in nature. This means that the weather could be glorious, but there is every chance that rain, wind and the rest will want in on the action too.
We’ll be covering all of the cities involved with Russia 2018 on our official site, so keep an eye on the page for all of your travel needs over the coming weeks. We’ll also be building up to the tournament on our official Russia In Your Pocket Facebook page, with plenty of competitions and fun to come. With that in mind, all eyes turn to the draw. Who have you got?