22:36 GMT +324 September 2017
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    The official mascot of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia at the presentation of a program to train volunteers for the 2017 Confederations Cup Russia and the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, at Moscow's Russian State University of Social Sciences.

    Why the World Cup Might Change British People's Minds About Russia

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    A new World Cup 2018 information center is launching in London and Alexei Cherepanov, the Deputy Director of Visit Russia UK, told Sputnik why British football fans should visit the host nation.

    "Most British people will never go to Russia in their whole life. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Alexei Cherepanov told Sputnik.

    Mr. Cherepanov said he hoped the World Cup will change British people's perceptions of Russia, much in the way the 2006 World Cup did about Germany.

    He said there was so much history for people to see and learn about and also great food.

    "We have very nice Russian cuisine which is tasty, but not super-healthy. It is favored by 147 million Russians, so it must be worth trying," Mr. Cherepanov told Sputnik.

    England is almost certain to qualify for the tournament, but fans of the national team were involved in violent clashes with Russian supporters in France during the Euro 2016 tournament.

    A BBC documentary earlier this year painted a terrifying portrait of Russian fans planning trouble at the World Cup. But the "Orel Butchers," who featured in the documentary Russia's Hooligan Army, claimed recently they were misrepresented.

    Mr. Cherepanov said England fans had nothing to fear as security would be at its highest levels. Russia hosted the Confederations Cup in June and it was seen as a successful dress rehearsal for the World Cup, with not a single incident of hooliganism.

    FIFA president Gianni Infantino said it was a "great success."

    "The level of security which was introduced for the Confederations Cup 2017 will be introduced for World Cup 2018 and it is enormous. During the Confederations Cup there was not a single incident of hooliganism towards any of the eight countries who came to compete, and I am sure the World Cup will be a great success," said Mr. Cherepanov.

    He also played down fears of racism towards black supporters.

    "In Russia we have many clubs where black players are playing and there are no problems with the supporters. They love them and they respect them," said Mr. Cherepanov, who said there were also many black students from foreign countries in Russia who were safe and did not receive abuse.

    Russia is issuing special identity cards will be needed to enter stadiums and can be used to enter the country as normal visa requirements are being waived. Mr. Cherepanov explained how it would work.

    "If a football fan wants to go to Russia, they will need to obtain a visa or to get a fan ID, which is a document which is provided to someone who buys a ticket," he said.

    "Having a fan ID allows people to enter Russia visa-free and stay there until the end of the games," he said.

    Mr. Cherepanov said the World Cup center would also provide travel and accommodation information for fans. It will be officially launched on September 1, but it is currently accepting enquiries from fans. The center will be open from 9am to 6pm every weekday.

    Russia is hosting the World Cup for the first time in 2018. It will take place in 11 cities across Russia from 14 June to 15 July.

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    Tags:
    supporters, Russians, football fans, sports, hooligans, World Cup 2018, Russia, United Kingdom, England, London
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