Exploring your future stadium and having a kickabout where thousands of fans will soon be watching you play is a special feeling for any footballer. The players from Samara-based club Krylia Sovetov experienced something similar on Wednesday, when they went on a tour of the Samara Arena construction site. This venue is set to host six matches at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and will become Krylia's home ground after the tournament.
The club first had a chance to see the Russia 2018 stadium in the early days of construction on 14 April 2015. Since that visit, 547 days have passed and a concrete slab has been laid over the foundations of the stadium, three tiers of the stands have been erected and part of the dome has been assembled.
"Last time it was hard to imagine where the stands, pitch and changing rooms would be," observed Krylia captain Ivan Taranov. "But now we can go right inside the stadium and we can picture the goals and subs' bench. Now they just need to put in the playing surface and finish off the dome.
"We understand there's a lot of work still to do, but I'm convinced there'll be a fantastic stadium in Samara by 2018, ready to welcome a huge number of fans from all over the world."
Construction of the Samara Arena is nearing the halfway point. The concrete work is 85 per cent completed, the cement on the stands is currently being casted and progress is being made on the facilities beneath the terraces. Three of the 32 panels in the roof have been mounted, while three more are nearly in place. One of the mounting plates of the panels was assembled right before the players' and coaches' eyes.
Krylia goalkeeper Giorgi Loria has recently returned to Samara after international duty with Georgia, where he helped earn a creditable draw against Wales in Cardiff during a Russia 2018 qualifier on Sunday. "Of course, it's a special feeling to compete for the right to appear at the World Cup," Loria explained.
"Especially since some matches at the tournament will take place in the city where I play for my club. It means there's a chance that I'll be standing right here in Georgia's shirt in less than two years," he continued. "Getting to a World Cup is a dream for any professional footballer. I'm sure Samara will cope fantastically with the task of preparing and hosting the tournament, and the new stadium will be the perfect home for all players and football fans in the city."
The visiting party were not only treated to a pitchside view of the Samara Arena but also climbed up to the third tier of the stands, walked around the indoor facilities and even played a game against a team made up of workers. The first unofficial match played at the Russia 2018 venue finished 6-3 to Krylia Sovetov.
Finally, the head coach of the Green-White-Blues, Franky Vercauteren – himself no stranger to World Cups having featured at Spain 1982 and Mexico 1986 for Belgium – assessed his team's soon-to-be new home.
"The new stadium will not only benefit the players, but all the supporters as well," said the Belgian coach. "They will be more comfortable watching their favourite team here. I'd be happy to lead out a team at the Samara Arena."