Russia all set for kick-off: Infantino

Fifa president Gianni Infantino said Russia is "100 per cent ready" to host the World Cup.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino said Russia is "100 per cent ready" to host the World Cup. PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW • Russia is "100 per cent ready" to host the World Cup, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said on Wednesday as he addressed concerns about racism, human rights and security in the host country a week before the tournament starts.

The June 14-July 15 competition is spread across 11 cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi, and Infantino, the head of the world governing body for the sport, believes that supporters are in for a real treat.

"We (Fifa) can say that Russia is 100 per cent ready, and the whole world will actually see it when we kick off on June 14 with Russia and Saudi Arabia in the Luzhniki Stadium," he said in a video interview.

"Everyone will be able to witness how beautiful the stadiums are, how welcoming the country is, how the organisation and the preparations will work out. It'll be a great experience."

Russia has faced scrutiny in the lead-up to the tournament over issues including fan and team security as well as racism at matches.

Fifa fined Russia 30,000 Swiss francs (S$40,677) last month for discriminatory chants by fans after racist abuse was directed at France players during a friendly in St Petersburg in March. The Russians lost 3-1.

"I wouldn't say that I am concerned about discrimination, human rights or security, but obviously we take this very, very seriously and we've taken appropriate measures," Infantino added.

"For the first time, we have been checking the construction of stadiums, the sites to make sure conditions for the workers are correct... concrete progress has been made in terms of human rights and the way we deal with human rights questions."

The 48-year-old also promised a "safe environment" for fans travelling to the event.

"The Russian authorities are aware of the security situation in such a big event," he said.

"They are working very hard to prepare in cooperation with police authorities of all governments in the world... to be fully ready to tackle any potential issue.

"Every fan that is coming will be welcome in a safe environment to celebrate. If anyone is thinking about coming to Russia to create trouble, he'd better stay home."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2018, with the headline 'Russia all set for kick-off: Infantino'. Print Edition | Subscribe