Returning to school is a big moment for children in Russia: the summer holidays have finally come to an end and it is time to get back to the books with renewed vigour. The Day of Knowledge on 1 September was celebrated with a football-inspired theme this year, as lessons dedicated to the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup™ were held in all 11 Host Cities of the tournament.

As part of the lessons, volunteers selected and trained by the Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee (LOC) gave an interactive presentation entitled “A Lesson in Football: Looking Forward to Russia 2018”. Many distinguished guests were in attendance: famous athletes, footballers and Host City Ambassadors got involved in friendly games and delivered master-classes in schools throughout the country.

In Moscow, several educational establishments hosted the football lessons simultaneously. Pupils at the Department of Sport and Tourism in Moscow’s Chertanovo Centre of Sport and Education were treated to a special surprise, as former Russia captain and FIFA World Cup Ambassador Alexey Smertin as well as current Spartak Moscow player Denis Davydov dropped in on their presentation.

Afterwards, a friendly match was held between mixed teams of girls and boys, before all the youngsters got a chance to take photos with the Russia 2018 Official Mascot Zabivaka. The CEO of the LOC, Alexey Sorokin, was also present and took the opportunity to unveil the new FIFA World Cup Ambassador, Russian pop singer Zara.   

“I hope I can show the openness and diversity of our country in all its glory,” says Zara. “The organisers of the FIFA World Cup take great care of people with disabilities and this is important to me because as a UNESCO Artist for Peace I worked in this area. I am delighted that all Russian World Cup stadiums will meet barrier-free standards." 

At the Gymnasium No.1554, on the other hand, guests included the Russia 2018 Ambassadors Sergey Belogolovtsev and Pavel Zanozin, Spartak and Russia midfielder Roman Zobnin and Head of the Department of Sport and Tourism in Moscow Nikolay Gulyaev. There was a game of football to mark the occasion here too, the city volunteers challenging the school pupils.

Elsewhere in Russia 2018 Host Cities, the lessons also took place in several schools at once, like in Sochi and Samara. Volunteers in the latter were responsible for perhaps the most impressive feat, managing to give lessons in 160 schools and 20 colleges. Former legends and current players of FC Krylia Sovetov were the guests of honour in Samara, while ex-Krylia striker and television presenter Evgeny Savin spoke to the pupils via a video message. Russia 2018 Ambassadors Dmitry Cheryshev, Darya Shkurikhina, Aleksandr Nikitin and Natalya Ishchenko attended the lessons in Nizhny Novgorod, Volgograd and Kaliningrad.

“I love watching football,” admits Lev Karasenko, a fourth grade student, after a lesson in Yekaterinburg. “I can’t wait for the World Cup to come to Russia and I want Russia to win!”

There are many more football lessons planned for this academic year in Russian schools and universities, as the World Cup gets closer and closer. The pupils and students learning about the tournament now will be those leading the support in the stands at Russia 2018 stadiums next summer.