From Brazil to Russia: A look at 2018 World Cup

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 15, 2014 at 10:30 am •  Published: July 15, 2014
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But a bigger issue may be fan racism, after incidents in Russian club football in recent years.

Monkey chants aimed at Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure by CSKA Moscow fans during a Champions League game in November earned the club the first of two UEFA racism sanctions last season, and highlighted Russian football's problems with discrimination and violence. Last season also saw a swastika flag waved at a Spartak Moscow game, and a violent pitch invasion by Zenit St. Petersburg supporters in which an opposition player was punched in the head.

"Russian football is making certain efforts towards combatting (racism)," Sorokin said. "This thing exists everywhere, we are no exception. So we are going to do what we can."

Some Russian clubs' fans have shown they are "on a different planet in terms of their mindset," said Piara Powar, head of anti-discrimination group FARE, which is monitoring Russia ahead of 2018. "We have football fans going on the rampage, looking to attack visible ethnic minorities. So in that sense, the whole shebang is there and it's getting worse."

Last year, Russia passed its Fan Law, which introduces stadium bans for troublemakers at sports events. Powar said the law was "very stringent" but needs to be accompanied by education initiatives.

The budget for the World Cup has been set at 660 billion rubles ($19.24 billion), but the question of total costs is thorny. The official figure covers the stadiums and some stadium-related infrastructure, but not other developments such as around $20 billion of rail upgrades linked to the World Cup preparations by the Transport Ministry.

Another worry for Russia is the performance of its team, which was knocked out in the group stage in Brazil without a win. That poor performance put coach Fabio Capello's job in question, while renewed focus is being given to developing young players for 2018 and even naturalizing foreign talent, a suggestion that in recent months has been mooted in the government.

However, one thing is on Russia's side. As host, it will not need to qualify.