Tuesday in Russia was the first rest day of the Confederations Cup and, with no football games to occupy them, journalists in Moscow and Sochi liberally filled their faces.
Take a look at the lavish delicacies on offer at the Otkrytiye Arena as part of FIFA’s “Welcome Brunches”. They took place in the afternoon and occurred three days too late to be a welcome but pedants tend to pipe down when there’s a free lunch on offer.
The Kazan pack will have their chance tomorrow, while Sochi’s Deputy Mayor Sergey Yurchenko and venue manager Andrey Markov could not hit the buffet quick enough following some tricky questions from reporters. As the old saying doesn’t quite go, you give someone an miniature sandwich, they take a mile.
CAVI-AAAH THAT’S TASTY
Food laid on for journalists usually consists of sausage rolls and a couple of limp sandwiches.
Not so here with scribes covering the Confederations Cup in Moscow treated to an elaborate spread, which included caviar tarts and a magnificent apple flan.
The grub was laid on by Nikolay Gulyaev, the head of the Moscow City Department of Sport and Tourism, and Svetlana Bazhanova, the Local Organising Committee Venue Manager.
If they were trying to make a good impression, it worked!!!
THERE WEREN’T MANY SEATS FREE… JUST 12,000
A swift u-turn might have been a good way for Sochi Local Organising Committee man Markov to pouch himself some extra sarnies but it was a less effective method for addressing concerns over the swathes of empty seats at Fisht Stadium.
Germany’s entertaining 3-2 win over Australia on Monday was watched by 28,605, with the capacity of the recently converted Winter Olympic Stadium 41,980 at present.
Mr Markov was presented with a simple solution – dishing out free tickets to school children and the military – but proceeded to tie himself in knots.
“We don’t have that many empty seats,” he said dismissively before locating some glass-half-full enthusiasm. “Only one-fourth of the seating capacity was free yesterday.
Some back and forth over capacity, tickets and numbers followed before a very recently dismissed solution quickly sprung to mind.
“We’re working on this issue, so the suggestion has been made already that if there is no increase in ticket sales we will compensate with school children and other groups,” Markov backtracked. “This task to fill the stadium was always on the agenda, so this issue is being worked on at the moment.”
Glad we cleared that one up.
NO RACISM IN SOCHI SAYS DEPUTY MAYOR
Next on the agenda in Sochi was the issue of racism, with Deputy Mayor Yurchenko mercifully taking the floor in a more assured manner.
The sight of people last month wearing Cameroon shirts in blackface and carrying bananas during a parade in the city that will host the Africa Cup of Nations holders when they face Germany on Sunday was a deeply regrettable, embarrassing and offensive pre-tournament image that went around the word.
Nevetheless, Yurchenko was quick to label those involved as deviants who are not representative of the local population.
“We don’t see any problem with racism in Sochi and there can’t be any problem,” he said.
“In view of the incident you mentioned that was just some individual riot group. They have nothing to do with mass movements. It was some parade, we have no idea who those people are.
“As a whole the atmosphere and attitude of the population of Sochi is very good. You can see that attitude towards all of you on all our volunteers faces.
“There is not a single thought in Sochi citizens heads to express racism, let alone think about it. We are a multi-national, multi-lingual city and we have proved this point for a lot of years because we are an all-year-round ski resort and sea resort.”
OH YEAH I’LL TELL YOU SOMETHING, I THINK YOU’LL UNDERSTAND…
Footballers are often accused of requiring hand-holding and, on the evidence of Russia’s training session on Tuesday, it was well deserved.
After going through some light stretching exercises, Stanislav Cherchesov instructed his players to take part in a drill which saw them hold hands with a partner and play a two-sided match.
It looked complicated but the Russians, no doubt brimming with confidence following their 2-0 defeat of New Zealand on Saturday, made it look easy.
They may need to use greater force, and handcuff Cristiano Ronaldo when they come up against Portugal and the Real Madrid forward at Spartak Stadium on Wednesday.
ARGENTINA HAVE AT LEAST ONE SPOT ON RUSSIA’S GLOBAL STAGE
They missed out on the Confederations Cup by losing the World Cup final to Germany and the 2015 Copa America to Chile, while their qualifying campaign for 2018 is far from going smoothly.
However, Argentina can at least say that they have secured a place in Kazan, by virtue of the host city’s newest Ferris wheel.
The second of two such attractions on the self-styled ‘Riviera’ on the banks of the Kazanga river, this giant apparatus features cabins dedicated to countries from across the world, in recognition of the global sporting events that have taken place here in recent years.
The pods provide an unparalleled view of the city and are even heated to make the winter temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius tolerable.
It could be the nearest Argentina come to gracing Russian shores in the next year.