World Cup 2018 ambassador Alexey Smertin says it is important to educate fans about discriminating behaviour before the tournament in Russia next year.
The Confederations Cup, the warm-up tournament to the 2018 finals, has passed largely without any incidents of racism or discrimination among rival sets of fans despite high levels of concern prior to the tournament.
Smertin, who is in charge of combatting such behaviour in Russian football in the build-up to the World Cup, believes this year’s tournament has shown the host cities of St Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan and Sochi to be “warm” and “welcoming” to visitors.
However, he is determined to continue to work with FIFA and the Local Organising Committee to ensure that the risk of discriminating behaviour is as low as it can be by next June.
“This is a good platform to show how Russia is a welcoming country, warm, inviting for everyone. I’m sure you will have created your own opinion about Russia,” the former Chelsea midfielder said following FIFA’s Football for Hope forum in Kazan.
“The Confederations Cup is a rehearsal for everyone, for volunteers, the LOC, our national team, for everybody to showcase the diversity of football and to showcase our warmth.
“I was a leader of creating a public initiative called ‘Russia Loves Football’. It’s very important to create a big team. [FIFA president] Gianni Infantino says all the time ‘I am a team player’. I am a team player also, since my childhood and my time playing.
“So I know we need to work on it and educate people to make them more open and about discrimination, behaviour and attitude which is quite important. You need to go to the stadium to support your team and not be against the team on the other side. This is our message.”
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