Standort: / Meldung: "Russia 2018"

Charles Maynes Moscow

Journalist in Moscow

17. 7. 2014 - 16:30

Russia 2018

The world cup torch passes from Brazil to Russia. Can Russia handle it? No matter what, many Russians are dreaming big for 2018... if only their team can manage not to blow it.

With the World Cup in Brazil now history, the torch passes to Russia to host the next tournament in 2018. Indeed, Russian President Vladimir Putin was on hand for a ceremony ahead of the Germany-Argentina final, promising Russia would deliver a tournament to rival the Brazil games.

Huddled in bars and around their television sets to watch last Sunday’s final, Russians were counting on that as well. At a local pub in Moscow, Roman Guttsait, a well-known sportscaster with Russia's NTV plus network was calling the game in-house, with an eye on 2018.

“Russians should understand that the World Cup is a major event, and that hundreds of thousands of foreigners will be coming here, and you need to be ready for them,” Guttsait said. “I hope those who are watching tonight see just how peaceful and smoothly the Brazil games went. If so, hopefully we can do the same.”

Blatter übergibt Fußball an Putin


Eleven cities will host World Cup matches when the tournament comes to Russia in 2018. Some, like Moscow and St. Petersburg, are cities you'd expect. But others include towns like Saransk and Syktyvkar in the Komi Repubic, regional towns not known for foreign tourism. Guttsait wonders how they'll handle 20,000 English football fans partying after a game.

Add in concerns about human rights, questions over corruption and the massive sums of money spent, condemnation over Russia's foreign policy in places like Ukraine and Syria, a relaunch of Russia's international image, and you'd be forgiven for saying — oh, for chrissakes — haven't we been through all this before?

It's true. A lot of the same conversations surrounded the run-up to the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Only now, according to Guttsait, the success of those Games – in spite of the naysayers – have helped many Russians shed doubts about Russia's preparedness for the World Cup.

“There's this stereotype here that everything is done at the last second, in poor quality, that we don't treat foreigners well. Sochi proved just the opposite,” he said. “The organization was fantastic and on the highest level. And one thing you can count on for the World Cup is organization: they'll have the money and everything will be built on time.”

Igor Pomoshnikov, another fan at the bar for Sunday night's game, said the success of the Sochi Games allowed Russians to believe in themselves. To think bigger. Expect more.

And he expects a lot from his team, possibly even a place in the finals.

Putin, Blatter, Merkel


“Time will tell,” Pomoshnikov said. “But our President was in the stands watching the match between these two teams in Brazil and I think he'll give a big push towards developing soccer in Russia, beginning right now.”

As proof, Russia can point to its great Olympic come back. After a disappointing finish in the 2010 Vancouver Games, Russia rocketed to #1 in the medal count in Sochi — aided by deep state coffers, great performances by Russian athletes, and a few quick passports issued to the likes of snowboarding American Zach Wilde and the speed skater Viktor Ahn of South Korea.

But soccer has been a different story, cautions another Russian fan, Yulia Lebedova, who has tempered expectations for 2018.

“I think it'll be cool to see the World Cup and go to games and, of course, root for Russia,” she said, “even though, it's no secret, our team is weak.”

Despite hiring the Italian trainer Fabio Capello at top dollar for the Brazil World Cup, the Russian team failed to advance to the round of 16. Cue the national mudslinging, said Roman Guttsait, the NTV sportscaster. Forgiveness is rarely part of a Russian sports fan's DNA.

Fabio Capello mit Russland Trikot


Fabio Capello

“When things are going well, everyone's ready to cheer. But Russia doesn't know how to deal with failure. Just look at what happened with Brazil's team,” Guttsait said. “To let in 10 goals in two games is a catastrophe, and yet Brazilians continued to support their players. The Russian squad didn't embarass itself anything like that, and yet fans treat the players with utter contempt.”

The fan, Igor Pomoshnikov, would seem a classic example. According to him, if Russia falls short, players can expect Russian 'f-bombs' to fly their way.

“We cheer hard when they're winning, but when our team fails we curse hard, too,” he said, laughing. “We're hoping there's no reason to swear.”

But it just wouldn't be Russia without the self-lacerating humor. There was even a bit of it on display Sunday night.

In a move not seen by television viewers but widely discussed online, a prankster named Vitaly Zdorovetskiy streaked across the field shirtless, before security grabbed him.

Russian media carried the story and focused on the fact that Zdovetskiy, now an American, was originally from Murmansk, in northern Russia.

They quickly claimed this son of the north as their own.

“As you see,” they noted, “Russia made it to the final after all.”