The truth about football in Russia (and no bulls**t!)

Stan Collymore
Former Premier League star Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) joins RT as a special host for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia. Collymore, who played centre-forward for such clubs as Aston Villa, Liverpool and Leicester City, is now an award-winning sports broadcaster who regularly appears on TV and radio and has a massive online following.
The truth about football in Russia (and no bulls**t!)
I'm delighted to be reporting for RT from the Confederations Cup in Russia this summer. It’s a chance for me to see the country, the infrastructure, the fans, and most importantly, before the World Cup, to tell the truth as I see it.

READ MORE: FIFA Confederations Cup 2017: Get ready for all the action in Russia with RT’s special project

RT have not asked me to, nor will they ever, fake anything, bulls**t anything, lie, say something is cool when it’s not, fudge any issue, not do something, not go anywhere and certainly not put myself in a position where I jeopardize hard-earned trust with you guys as someone who, for better or worse (and trust me, in the UK it’s for worse) says it as they see it.

I'm here because I want to be. If anyone asks me to broadcast or say anything for effect, or to "gild the lily," I'll be happily back in Cannock in no time.

There are three reasons that I am here.

1. I love work, and I love broadcasting as my work.

2. After watching more than enough bulls**t "Don't come here if you're black" documentaries, since the World Cup of 2010, I've gone off and filmed things myself, so nobody can ever accuse me of "toeing the line."

3. The Sting song, “Russians.”

If anyone wants to accuse me of propaganda, go ahead. Wrong bloke, it will never happen. Ever. EVER.

And if anyone wants to see propaganda or not serving the truth to the viewer or listener, ask talkSPORT why they didn't renew my contract. It was because I've slagged off The S** for 10 years, and rightly so.

Ask BBC MOTD why an offer to appear was rescinded. Because I've been critical of the level of analysis, punditry and “mates hiring mates” culture.

And ask BT Sport why, after five successful appearances, why they panicked after I criticized Rangers fans (who BT hosted on their channel) for audible sectarianism and asked politely, "Could we let things cool down before you come back on?”

No, I was right to highlight it, and always will be!

So, accuse me of whatever you like, but in broadcasting a lack of professionalism, a lack of preparation, a lack of truth-seeking will never be something I can be accused of. I've come too far.

So I'm here, hosting RT coverage around the Confed Cup, visiting stadia, meeting people and going off piste to report my findings, so that like in Ukraine 2012, and the two World Cups I've reported on, fans can take what I say and bank on it. Reliable, honest information.

Before I come to Sting's “Russians,” I'll tell you a tale of Ukraine 2012.

Remember that documentary? The one that said, "If you are black, English, the Ukrainian hooligans are coming for you?" Scary, wasn't it? To the point the talkSPORT crew prior to going out there had a security briefing, and I was considering, as a black man, hiring my own security.

And then I thought, “Hold on, Ukraine has [40] million people, so the odds of being steamed by 20 Dynamo Kiev Ultras, anywhere, anytime is fairly low.” So, I went to Ukraine, traveled by car, 13-hour cross-country train, plane – everywhere, at all times, wherever I wanted, alone.

You know what happened? Kindness. Everyday people excited beyond belief that Europe was coming to them, to eat in their restaurants, drink their beer, chat up their men and women and watch some football.

I reported this on talkSPORT and something magical happened.

England v Sweden in Kiev (I think), I'm in the commentary booth with Saggers and Sam.

Two guys above me, British Asians wearing England shirts, shouted "STAN, STAN, UP HERE!" I looked up and two smiling guys told me that they heard my daily reports of the first week in Ukraine, tweeted the pics, told everyone at home the fun we were having and how safe it was (Saggers and I interviewed a Nigerian guy sat in a park, who pissed himself laughing when we asked him, "Are you scared?" He'd been in Donetsk 7 years, without his colour ever being referred to, and decided to come to Kiev solely on my recommendation.)

To this day, that is the thing as a broadcast journalist that I cherish the most. Two guys, scared witless by a TV documentary, who trusted the stranger on the radio and consequently had the time of their lives.

Likewise, in Brazil, when some of our press suggested we were all going to be mugged in favelas, and likewise in South Africa where we were all going to be carted off to Soweto and set alight.

I went everywhere in these countries, you have the pics and scopes and videos as a matter of record, and in every last damn place, all I met was kindness, warmth, welcomes and football fans wanting to enjoy themselves.

Think of it as the 25,000 England fans in the Stadium of Light in Lisbon, knocked out of Euro 2004 by the hosts, and all of us walking out of the stadium, singing our songs, with not one iota of trouble, but 200 miles away in the Algarve, Big Gaz and his pals, nowhere near the game, wearing England shirts, decide to tar all of us with their f**king idiotic brush. That's what documentaries in the UK before World Cups do, they tar the majority with the minority’s sh**ty stick.

I've been to Brazil, South Africa and Ukraine. Not with the VIPs. On my own. And in every place, I could have been walking around Manchester, London, Brighton or Glasgow.

Which brings me to Sting.

We are living in strange times. I love politics but I am no politician, nor want to be. I'm an ex-pro footballer and a bloody good sports broadcaster.

I never get sucked in by propaganda by anyone or anything, because in 2017, they are all at it, in every country, every one.

"But the Russians love their children too."

The third reason I'm in Russia, and perhaps the most relevant.

I work on the basis that intelligent people know that human beings generally want very little.

1. Work
2. Health
3. A life (social, fun)
4. Respect

Every country I visit, I know that every person I meet (either openly or not) wants these things.

So I'm delighted to report after two days that going off on my own after work, or first thing on my 10k gym run, I have encountered nothing but the same kind of people you'd see anywhere and everywhere.

Nobody has looked at me as if I have horns, the Zenit fans I met wanted the hoolies that HAVE marred their reputation driven out of the club (just like sensible Chelsea, West Ham, Millwall, Leeds, Pompey fans all wanted that, right?), and to a man and woman, Russians are so excited to have football fans come to them next year it's reminiscent of my trips to Brazil, Ukraine and South Africa: All maligned pre-tournament, all lauded post-tournament.

You can take my word or not, to be frank, I don't care much. What I do care about is that from me, while I'm a sports broadcaster, you'll get honesty, the truth and an accurate reflection on the ground wherever I am, whatever I’m doing.

That will continue in Russia. The stadia look great, the cities look great, the people are like you and me, the pubs are flowing with beer and vodka, and the hooligans, just like ours, will be dealt with.

I’ll report again after Kazan, Moscow and Sochi.

For now, this is Stanley Victor, signing off in St. Petersburg.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.