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England qualify for Russia, who are turning on the charm

by 06/10/2017 19:55:00 0 comments 1 Views
  • Victoria Lopyreva is an ambassador for the World Cup in Russia next year 
  • The former Miss Russia has turned on the charm in an attempt to mask issues
  • But Russian police chiefs assure fans they have enough resources at hand
  • There will be free rail services between venues for fans and free metro services 

By Ian Herbert For The Daily Mail

Published: 17:30 EDT, 6 October 2017 | Updated: 19:55 EDT, 6 October 2017

Victoria Lopyreva’s Instagram posts imply greater interest in Alfa Romeos and beaches than international diplomacy, but she finds herself on the front line of Russia’s public-relations offensive for the World Cup.

The 2003 Miss Russia’s rise to this position owes much to her 18-month marriage to Fedor Smolov (ex-Dynamo Moscow striker), which briefly made the couple the Beckhams of Russia. She subsequently co-hosted the Russian Football Nightly TV show with Alexey Smertin, the former Chelsea player adored across the nation. Smertin was apparently the comedian of the pair.

Lopyreva, 34, is the most trenchant defender of a tournament which makes the country the focus of global scrutiny amid denial about its systematic doping of athletes across dozens of sports.

Victoria Lopyreva finds herself on the front line of Russia¿s PR offensive for the World Cup
Victoria Lopyreva finds herself on the front line of Russia¿s PR offensive for the World Cup

Victoria Lopyreva finds herself on the front line of Russia’s PR offensive for the World Cup

Lopyreva has defended the tournament which makes Russia the focus of global scrutiny
Lopyreva has defended the tournament which makes Russia the focus of global scrutiny

Lopyreva has defended the tournament which makes Russia the focus of global scrutiny

The 34-year-old, with the official 'Krasava' match ball,  is an ambassador for the tournament
The 34-year-old, with the official 'Krasava' match ball,  is an ambassador for the tournament

The 34-year-old, with the official 'Krasava' match ball,  is an ambassador for the tournament

When the questioning of the deputy chief of Moscow’s police department on possible tensions between England and Russia fans became a little intense last week, it was Lopyreva who intervened.

‘I know some people in other countries in Europe have a different mood about what might happen in Russia, about whether it is dangerous, about whether the people here might not be happy to have foreign guests,’ she said. ‘I would like to say this is not true.’

Yet there is no denying England fans risk rough handling if they gather in large groups chanting ‘10 German bombers’ or more of the unflattering songs about Vladimir Putin which sparked pitched battles with tooled-up Russian gangs in Marseille last year. 

Her rise owes much to her 18-month marriage to former Dynamo Moscow striker Fedor Smolov
Her rise owes much to her 18-month marriage to former Dynamo Moscow striker Fedor Smolov

Her rise owes much to her 18-month marriage to former Dynamo Moscow striker Fedor Smolov

She has hosted a Russian Football TV show with Alexey Smertin, the former Chelsea player
She has hosted a Russian Football TV show with Alexey Smertin, the former Chelsea player

She has hosted a Russian Football TV show with Alexey Smertin, the former Chelsea player

Lopyreva, pictured at the 2017 Confederations Cup, said Russia welcomes foreign guests
Lopyreva, pictured at the 2017 Confederations Cup, said Russia welcomes foreign guests

Lopyreva, pictured at the 2017 Confederations Cup, said Russia welcomes foreign guests

The former Miss Russia welcomes British media to the Luzhniki Stadium
The former Miss Russia welcomes British media to the Luzhniki Stadium

The former Miss Russia welcomes British media to the Luzhniki Stadium

The organised groups of uniformed, gymnasium-trained fighters who attacked the English in France are on notice that they face jail for violent conduct. And warnings like that are heeded in this country. ‘People don’t want to go to prison,’ one fighter affiliated to a Dynamo Moscow crew told Sportsmail last summer.

The Russian police are also more sophisticated than is appreciated. Their British counterparts say the nation is highly effective in its use of ‘spotters’ — intelligence officers who identify potential troublemakers. The French police, for example, are far more heavy-handed. Moscow will also employ members of their multi-lingual ‘tourism police’ division.

But Russian police want fans to do their singing in designated zones and seem ready to move them on from public places.

The fighters who attacked English in France are on notice that they face jail for violent conduct
The fighters who attacked English in France are on notice that they face jail for violent conduct

The fighters who attacked English in France are on notice that they face jail for violent conduct

‘According to Russian law, it’s OK to drink as long as you don’t disturb public order,’ said deputy police chief Andrey Zakharob. ‘If there are any violations of public order, then the police will have to respond.

‘We will have a few fan-fest areas... designated for people to come together, drink beer and enjoy football. We have enough police officers to deploy. I don’t expect any difficulties.’

A few hours after Zakharob spoke, monkey chants were allegedly directed at Liverpool’s Nigerian-born 18-year-old Bobby Adekanye during an academy game at Spartak Moscow. The club have been charged by UEFA.

Monkey chants were allegedly directed at Liverpool¿s Bobby Adekanye in Spartak Moscow
Monkey chants were allegedly directed at Liverpool¿s Bobby Adekanye in Spartak Moscow

Monkey chants were allegedly directed at Liverpool’s Bobby Adekanye in Spartak Moscow

Though Russian streets are not as intimidating at night as Rio de Janeiro’s were during the 2014 tournament, views on race are behind the times in a nation with few black faces. ‘We think it is exotic to see Africans,’ one journalist told Sportsmail last summer.

There could be unsavoury moments when a melting pot of a million travelling fans and 32 nations gathers next June.

The new stadiums have their bizarre elements. To achieve the minimum 35,000 FIFA capacity at Ekaterinburg Arena — the most easterly venue — construction teams have expanded two of the stands beyond the limits of the ground. A fire at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Thursday was the third at one of the 12 host venues this year.

But it is safe to predict that the stadiums will be impressive. Just under £350m has been spent on Moscow’s rebuilt Luzhniki — with only the original facade surviving.

To achieve 35,000 capacity at Ekaterinburg Arena, they have extended outside the grounds

The Ekaterinburg Arena has been cut into so that fans in a temporary stand can see the pitch
The Ekaterinburg Arena has been cut into so that fans in a temporary stand can see the pitch

The Ekaterinburg Arena has been cut into so that fans in a temporary stand can see the pitch

This pales in comparison with the £615million lavished on the St Petersburg Stadium
This pales in comparison with the £615million lavished on the St Petersburg Stadium

This pales in comparison with the £615million lavished on the St Petersburg Stadium

The running track has gone at the national stadium and undersoil heating now allows matches to be played at temperatures of -15˚C.

This pales in comparison with the £615million lavished on the St Petersburg Stadium, a signature piece for the Russian state.

There will be free rail services between venues for supporters and free metro services within them. The high-speed, four-hour St Petersburg-to-Moscow train, with TV screens and wifi, puts Britain in the shade.

For those with tickets, access to the country will be easy, with visas waived as part of the ‘Fan ID’ system.

England fans looking to base themselves in the city near the team’s probable HQ — St Petersburg — will discover the most attractive of the 12 host cities.

It is western in feel, with fine Georgian restaurants and Amsterdam-style waterways, albeit the rainfall is high.

Asked about any apprehensions, Zakharob was dismissive. ‘What do you mean? We are ready for whatever may happen, but English fans are just like Russian fans,’ he said.

Ms Lopyreva agreed, though this week she was in Dubai which, she revealed on Instagram, was ‘decidedly balmy after Moscow freeze-hell’.

Ms Lopyreva was in Dubai this week, which was ¿decidedly balmy after Moscow freeze-hell¿
Ms Lopyreva was in Dubai this week, which was ¿decidedly balmy after Moscow freeze-hell¿

Ms Lopyreva was in Dubai this week, which was ‘decidedly balmy after Moscow freeze-hell’

 

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