The 2018 FIFA World Cup™ will take place in 11 Russian cities in less than two years’ time. In all of them, excitement is building up and locals are looking forward to offering fans a warm welcome, as well as showing off their history, culture and natural beauty.
While most international fans are well aware of what Moscow, Saint Petersburg or Sochi have to offer, potential volunteers from all over Russia and other countries explain what attracts them in less internationally known cities like Kaliningrad, Samara or Volgograd.
34 year-old Alexandra Demidova was born and raised in Chelyabinsk, a city near Ekaterinburg, the eastern-most Host City for Russia 2018. She moved to Austria three-and-a-half years ago, graduating from university and securing a job in the fashion industry. There, Alexandra had volunteered for UEFA EURO 2008 and says she wants to have another unforgettable experience, this time in her home country.
“The choice of city was never a question for me, of course I wanted to volunteer back home, in the Urals,” said Alexandra, who is eager to to show foreign tourists the unique city, largest on the overland borderline between Europe and Asia. According to her, Ekaterinburg’s diverse appearance and unique architecture will appeal to fans from all over the world. “Overall, Ekaterinburg is a young city with its own buzz. I also consider there to be the centre of Russian street art."
Aleksey Makhonin, an oil industry geology expert with an international consulting firm, also wants to tell visitors about his native city, which in his case is Volgograd. Since watching his first-ever FIFA World Cup in Italy in 1990, Aleksey, who currently lives in London, has not missed a single major tournament, explaining that "it's a massive celebration every time".
“In Volgograd you can enjoy fantastic nature and become absorbed with history. If you want nature, you can enjoy the great panorama of the Volga river, and it’s not far from the other great river Don,” the 36-year-old told FIFA.com. “If you enjoy history, go to the Mamayev Kurgan hill near the stadium where one of the fiercest battles of World War II took place.”
“In 2018, the celebration is coming to my hometown of Volgograd and I would be delighted to not only participate as a visitor but actually help to organise it as a volunteer. I lived and worked in Algeria, the US and Britain over many years and speak fluent English. Working for an international company in a diverse team taught me to appreciate different cultures, while consulting helped me polish my leadership, problem-solving and communication skills,” he adds.
Roman Belykh, a 37-year-old from the world’s biggest city north of the Arctic Circle Murmansk, wants to volunteer for Russia 2018 in Samara. Roman works in IT, helping to develop electronic services and interdepartmental electronic communications in his region. Why Samara? “I’ve never been and would love to visit this beautiful city on the banks of the Volga River," Roman confesses. “Samara is the aerospace capital of Russia and I want to visit the Samara Space Museum and Exhibition Centre,” he explains.
Pascal Juanni, a 55-year-old from France, works for a major international transport company and lives in Northern France. “Kaliningrad is a port just like Dunkirk where I live, and it’s the western-most city of the World Cup in Russia. That’s why I’d like to be there for the tournament,” he explains.
Pascal visited Saint Petersburg two years ago and was hugely impressed. Having recently volunteered for the EUROs back home in France, Pascal has high expectations for his trip to Russia: “I want to meet new people who love football as much as I do, I want to make Russian friends. Volunteering gives me that opportunity and it means a huge deal to me.”
Wherever Russia 2018 volunteers and visitors go, they are guaranteed a warm welcome. “I know the history of my city inside out and would love to share this with World Cup visitors, helping them to understand our country and people,” said Aleksey Makhonin as he invited everyone to visit Volgograd and Russia. “I am confident I can help to make our World Cup dream come true,” he proclaimed.