Russia will showcase four of its 12 World Cup venues, including the scandal-plagued St Petersburg Stadium, in a fortnight-long tournament kicking off June 17 that will feature world champions Germany, the various regional champions and the host country.
Russia, now a record low 63rd in Fifa world rankings, have experienced upheaval with three managers in the last two years. But the country hopes to present itself as an able host in a far-flung tournament that will test the security and logistics of its soccer infrastructure.
The tournament, held in Moscow, St Petersburg, Sochi and Kazan, is also meant to ensure the 2018 World Cup in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia runs smoothly as he faces political isolation over the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
Since clashes between Russian and English fans tarnished the European championship in France last year, President Putin has approved legislation that toughens punishments for violence at sporting events as part of a broader crackdown on hooliganism.
The authorities say the Confederations Cup’s ticketing system, which requires ticket holders to apply for a personalised fan-ID, will ensure that fans are screened and hooligans kept away.
“Citizens who have committed gross legal violations during sporting events, demonstrated racism, set off fireworks, broken furniture, tried to start fights, are under our unwinking, constant stare,” Anton Gusev, deputy head of the interior ministry department overseeing security at sports venues, told reporters on Tuesday.
“This also pertains to foreign soccer hooligans.”
The ministry has blacklisted 191 fans, including 54 spectators involved in a pitch invasion at the Russia Cup final in Sochi, an incident that revived concerns about the readiness of Russian soccer venues to handle crowds.
A bombing in the St Petersburg metro that left 16 dead in April also sparked fears that a similar attack could hit Russia during the tournament.
Russia’s Federal Security Service tried to assuage concerns on Tuesday, saying terrorism did not pose a threat to Confederations Cup participants and spectators.