4 minutes ago
Tashreeq Vardien – Sport24
Vladimir Putin (Getty Images)
Cape Town – Former Bafana Bafana defender Matthew Booth has assured any travellers and players that Russia is a safe place ahead of the 2018 Soccer World Cup next month.
The 41-year-old spent seven years plying his trade in Russia – playing for Rostov (2002-2004) and Krylia Sovetov (2004-2009) – after leaving South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns.
When it comes to football, Russia has been scrutinised for racism, hooliganism and violent behaviour.
Several alarming incidents have occurred this year alone, such as racist chants that were targeted towards Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba and Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele when Russia hosted France in March for a friendly encounter.
FIFA was quick to fine the Russian FA (€25 000) following the racist chants by the home supporters in a match that was won 3-1 by France.
Many supporters are still concerned about their safety and whether taking the risk of boarding an airplane to football’s grandest showpiece.
Booth, however, believes that Russian president Vladimir Putin will ensure that fans and players alike will be safe during the tournament.
“There is also some kind of dark side to Russia, which I think the English press… just like when they were focussed on South Africa (ahead of the 2010 Soccer World Cup) they were very sensationalist, critiqued us to the tilt, it will happen to Russia as well,” Booth said at SuperSports World Cup launch.
“Of course, they are going to pick on the racism part but anyone going there or any teams going there have got nothing to worry about.
“If anything (Vladimir) Putin is going to make sure this World Cup and FIFA… they are going to make sure that it (the World Cup) will be run correctly and there’s not going to be any incidents.”
Russia will kick-off the competition on Thursday, June 14 against Saudi Arabia at the new Luzhniki Stadium (17:00 SA time).