French footballing great Marcel Desailly has said any doubts over Russia being “a football country” have been dispelled by the nation’s fever-pitch enthusiasm as it prepares to host the World Cup this summer.
World Cup winner Desailly opened the official FIFA Fan Fest zone in Moscow on Sunday ahead of the big kick-off when Russia take on Saudi Arabia in the capital on Thursday.
Thousands of fans turned out at the opening event and were treated to a performances by Russian and international musicians as well as a viewing of the World Cup trophy.
Speaking to RT, former Chelsea and AC Milan defender Desailly said the enthusiasm in Russia as it prepares it to host its first-ever World Cup is evidence that the nation is well and truly in love with the beautiful game.
“Thousands of people are here, we are very pleased, we were wondering if Russia was really a country of football… now we have the answer and we are very pleased.
“Football is made of this, to be able to share, different cultures will come to the country,” added the Frenchman, who is an official FIFA ambassador.
The former French international, who was part of the team that claimed World Cup glory on home soil in 1998, also said he hopes this year’s hosts can at least reach the knockout stages.
“We are just hoping that for the opening game that Russia will do well against Saudi Arabia. I love Saudi Arabia as well of course, but I would like Russia to at least perform because the past games have not been very good.
“So we hope that they will show us that they can qualify for the second round.”
The Fan Fest zone in Moscow is one of 11 sites in each of the World Cup host cities, all of which will be free to enter.
They will welcome thousands of fans on matchdays during the tournament, when supporters will be able to watch all the World Cup action live on giant screens and enjoy other music and cultural entertainment.
The fan zone in the Russian capital is in Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) and has the spectacular backdrop of the Moscow State University. It is across the river from Luzhniki Stadium, which will host seven games at the World Cup, including the opening game on June 14 and final on July 15.