Its mere propaganda, Russia is the place to be – English fans

Jacob Icia Moscow Chronicles 

Months before the FIFA 2018 World Cup kickoff here in Russia, heavy criticism was cast on the hosts hospitality with claims of extreme racism taking centre stage of the debate.

While most of the people from all corners of the globe who had not visited Moscow before cautiously planned for the hitherto so unpredictable Russia sojourn, it was the English media that was awash with messages of caution on a ‘harsh Russia’.

Diplomatic row

It all started with the Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were found unconscious on a bench in the UK city of Salisbury on March 4, thought to be poisoned with a nerve agent of a type developed by Russia, very public political posturing and inflammatory exchanges between Westminster and the Kremlin played out like the opening scenes of a mediocre Cold War-era espionage movie.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May made it clear she believed Moscow to be “culpable,” while Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said “our quarrel is with Putin’s Kremlin.” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov referred to the UK government’s accusations as a “shocking and inexcusable breach of diplomatic propriety.”

May announced 23 Russian diplomats will be expelled from the UK as part of a “full and robust” response. The move was countered by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov subsequently expelling British diplomats from Russia.

It was so heated, to an extend suggestions to boycott World Cup were made but most Western countries were quick to dismiss them, including old rivals Germany.

Nearly three weeks into the biggest football fiesta, Moscow has proved critics wrong. None of the hundreds of respondents to Citizen Digital, even from England, has spoken ill of the Russia experience.

“We are disappointed the media made it look so ugly. I have been here for two weeks and there is nothing negative to write about…Moscow is fantastic,” a jubilant Jimmie Reid told at the Spartak Moscow Stadium, after England’s qualification to quarters on Tuesday night.

Another one, John Campbell said: “We are always made to think too hard, to think politically. Football surpasses politics. I’ve seen Russians so warm and kind to us. I’ve attended every England match and I can’t remember any incidence, not in the stadium, on the roads or trains…”

BBC reported more England fans are expected to pour in for the quarter final match against Sweden, as it was on Tuesday when hundreds arrived for the Colombia clash.

Significantly, Kremlin planned well for the visitors. From the robust road, railway and air transport networks, free Wi-Fi, the Fan ID being used as a visa for the fans to super-coordinated security vigilance across the host cities has changed all the perception.

There is also a word going round that President Vladimir Putni called for nice reception for the visitors, and his decrees are seriously taken here.