“Is Ronaldo coming? Of course.” – Confederations Cup Draw in Kazan

This weekend, Kazan hosted football luminaries from across the globe as the draw for the 2017 Confederations Cup took place. Vlad Zimagulov from Sport BO was out and about that day, and has the summary of the days’ events. All photos and text courtesy of Sport BO.

The red carpet was put out before the ceremony surrounding the Confederations Cup draw. This, of course, does not compare to what the stars of the Oscars normally expect, or the world’s best players arriving at the Ballon D’or, but for Kazan, this is the best there’s been for several years.

Women everywhere in red dresses, fresh costumes off the rack are adorning ex footballers and coaches. Germany coach Joachim Löw looks restrained, but later returned in a better mood with Zabivaka – the mascot of the 2018 World Cup. The German is certainly the flashiest man there – definitely more so than Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov. As for the women, all eyes were drawn to Victoria Lopyreva and Yelena Isinbayeva [Olympic goldwinner in pole vault].

Joachim Loew poses with World Cuo 2018 mascot Zabivaka.

Joachim Loew poses with World Cuo 2018 mascot Zabivaka.

Special attention was enjoyed by State Counselor of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev throughout the day.

“Mintimer, can you stand slightly to the side, so we can see the Kremlin?” – The photographers ask him. On the panel behind are the main attractions of the cities which will host the World Cup, including the Kremlin of Moscow

“The Kremlin? Which one?” – Wonders the first president of Tatarstan.

“The Kremlin- the only one!” – Is the response of the photographers, who are probably not local.

“I would argue that!” – Replies Shaimiev with a laugh, referring to the beautiful Qol-Sharif Mosque of Kazan, his home city.

In the hall, the first guests take their seats 30-40 minutes before the start of the show. Cherchesov, surrounded by representative of the Russian Football Union, took their place in the front row. Someone nearby welcomes him, but the excitement round the Russian coach did not last for long. When Löw arrived, a huge crowd accumulates around him. Photographers try to get a great photo, girls line up for a selfie, and men and women alike line up for autographs. Even Isinbayeva went to be photographed with the German coach, rather than those representing Russia.

The ceremony was soon underway, and after the introductory words of Yana Churikova and Andriy Malakhov, two popular TV hosts, singer Timati – of Tatar descent – took to the stage and performed a song to inspire: “Victory is close, I’m going, I cannot play this game” was one lyric uttered by the rapper. Perhaps this is the most controversial decision of the organisers of the show, opening the ceremony with this song. The world can be sure that not only in football, are things in bad predicament.

Three of Russia’s former Eurovision stars, Dima Bilan, Dina Garipova and Polina Gagarina, performed next, and sang a song about the best city on earth, named Bravo, and on the screen in the background, a video played, showing the main attractions of Kazan, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi. To close the musical part of the ceremony Grigory Leps, one of the highest earning singers in Russia, and his performance was perhaps most suited to the occasion.

Presenters and mascots take to the stage as the ceremony gets underway.

Presenters and mascots take to the stage as the ceremony gets underway.

“Let’s begin!” – Colin Smith, FIFA’s Director of Competitions, and ex-Croatian international Zvonimir Boban quickly interrupt the singing and dancing, to start the draw of the tournament. The total ceremony was between 35 and 40 minutes, and on the whole everything went as planned. Those who were waiting for something like the opening show of the 2014 Universiade, the 2015 FINA World Championships or the Winter Olympics in Sochi, could be a bit disappointed, but this is a draw in a hall, and it’s really unnecessary to have anything more than a couple of performances from home-based stars.

In the end, the main viewers were satisfied with the event. Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov gave a long thank you to Malakhov, and politely gave a kiss to Churikova after they left the stage. “Yana, you’re taken”” someone shouted from the president’s entourage jokingly.

In the first row of the upper tier, you could see numerous famous faces. Head of Gazprom Alexey Miller was in conversation with Olympic Champion Alexey Nemov, and Vitaly Mutko was discussing the results of the draw with Cherchesov. When the hall began to empty, guests began taking selfies in front of the stage where the main action took place. At one stage, there was a large commotion – some prominent guests while trying to take a selfie, knocked into a plasma TV, which fell to the floor and broke. “It’s beyond repair” said an engineer, who quickly cleared it.

The main outcome of the draw, from the perspective of Kazan, was the fact that the capital of Tatarstan will host the world’s top teams. World Cup champions Germany, Euro 2016 winners Portugal, and winner of the Copa America, Chile, will definitely play in Kazan next summer. Even Russia, in June, will play Mexico in Kazan – the dark horse of the tournament. Therefore, Kazan managed to avoid the lower teams, New Zealand, Australia and whoever wins the African Cup of Nations.

Let’s remember an exchange between Minnikhanov and Mutko back in September: “You will let us have a good team” said Minnikhanov, the Tatar President to Mutko, who retorted quickly, joking that playing tricks with balls off the pitch is not allowed.

The main question that will excite all the residents of Kazan, the ones that are interested in football at least, is whether Cristiano Ronaldo will arrive in Tatarstan next summer, so they know whether to book tickets.

Portuguese coach Fernando Santos, with regards the question of whether Russians have a chance to see one of the two best players in the world at a tournament in Russia, made it clear that only an injury will prevent Ronaldo from playing.

“Will Ronaldo come to the tournament?”

“Oh, sure. But if he cannot, for whatever reason, no. If he is not injured, he will play. I think it will be very difficult group. Russia – the host country with a new coach and big ambitions. They are playing at home and they have great players. They will want to win the Confederations Cup” Santos said in reply.

But at Joachim Löw’s press conference, he could not confirm what kind of squad Germany will bring to Russia.

“We’ll bring a very strong line-up, but I cannot say for sure who will be included. Of course, we are thinking about our team, but the tournament will be held next summer, it’s a long way off. For me, the Confederations Cup is a tournament where I intend to give a chance to young players. In this tournament you can tactically train young players, they can gain experience”- said the German coach.

Portugal and Germany will arrive in Kazan, this is already certain, but if they play their main stars will only be understood only closer to the tournament. Cherchesov at the end of his conference with the journalists assured everyone that Russia will bring its strongest side.

“There’s no need to talk about Portugal.” – explain Cherchesov to reporters. – “Recently, they found themselves and exhibit a serious level of football. With regard to the squad, if you think that the coaches will bring a weak squad, you are mistaken.” – argued the coach of Russia. Is he right? We will learn in summer.

Written by Vladislav Zimagulov: @vlad_zima

Translated by David Sansun: @RFN_David

Author: David Sansun

Arsenal and Rubin Kazan fan. Possibly too optimistic for Russian football which means I’m left disappointed a lot.

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