Anticipation, excitement, nerves, pride and expecting the unexpected. These are all emotions many football fans feel in the build-up to a World Cup.
Every four years the best of the best from around the world come together in the greatest sporting tournament in the world.
On the 14th of June 2018, teams will descend on Russia to fight for the coveted trophy. Germany are the current holders after winning it for the fourth time in the sun-kissed Brazil.
The countdown has well and truly begun but rather than the usual buzz of excitement, fans are less excited for the 21st World Cup tournament.
Ever since Russia were awarded the tournament, the decision was greeted with a mixture of anger and annoyance.
The tournament was awarded to Russia, despite seemingly stronger bids from England and the USA.
It later came out the FIFA officials were bribed. The tournament was awarded to an undemocratic, seemingly corrupt nation by a discredited financially motivated organisation.
Since the World Cup has been awarded to Russia, they have tried to annex Crimea, made incursions into Ukraine, have apparently interfered in democratic elections across the west and are in the midst of a nerve agent controversy.
Politicians in the UK have called for England to boycott the tournament following reports that a former Russian spy died because he was poisoned by a nerve agent believed to be Russian.
But should countries be reconsidering their participation in the tournament for a different reason? Racism.
For years, football and racism almost went hand in hand. This has improved in modern times but Russia football is always in the news because of another racism scandal.
A head of UEFA FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) Monitoring Centre, Dr Rafał Pankowski accused the Russian Football Union of downplaying racist chants in stadiums, saying: “Nazi slogans are common in many Russian stadiums. Matches are often interrupted with racist chants aimed at black players.” More than 100 incidents took place 2012-2014.
In October Uefa charged Spartak Moscow for racist chanting during a Uefa Youth League fixture against Liverpool, and the club were later criticised for a “racist” tweet about their own players.
FARE reported 90 incident of racism in the Russian league last season alone.
The most recent example took place during the international break, when France beat host’s Russia 3-1.
The issue in Tuesday’s game was first reported by photographers from news agency AFP, who said they heard chants when players went to take corners.
France’s sports minister has condemned the “inadmissible” monkey chants aimed at French players Paul Pogba and Ousmane Dembele during the international friendly against Russia in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
« Le racisme n’a pas sa place sur les terrains de football. Nous devons agir de concert au niveau européen et international afin de faire cesser ces comportements inadmissibles » #FRARUS #exaequo.
Crédits FFF/ Bastien Lheritier. pic.twitter.com/kRB1fbBNjO
— Laura Flessel (@FlesselLaura) March 28, 2018
Tweet from Laura Flessel following the racism directed towards French players in March. It translates as ‘Racism has no place on football fields. We must act together at European and international level to stop these inadmissible behaviors’
Earlier this month the hosts’ national team coach Stanislav Cherchesov said: “I do not think we have racism on a scale that needs to be fought.”
He has previously insisted that minorities will feel “safe and comfortable” at the World Cup, dismissing fears as “propaganda”.
These actions marred France’s win and raise concerns about fan and player safety during the World Cup, especially those from an ethnic background.
FIFA and the Russian Football Association (RFU) are investigating the claims but this is just another bit of negativity towards the hosts.
There is a clear disparity in discourse between Russian’s in the game and from those outside it.
How can a country that has such a systematic history of racism have been awarded a tournament which is meant too bring nations together?
Russia hosting the tournament will not change but this tournament is doomed to fail. No matter how much of a success the tournament might be seen as from a footballing perspective, there will no doubt be off-field controversy.
Fans are going into the tournament fearing the safety, players have hired private security teams for their families and the examples of racism against French players shows that no matter now much people try to brush aside the endemic racism in the country these views will not disappear.
We might be talking about how excellent Russia were as hosts bu in the most likely scenario that will not be the case. The tournament will no doubt be marred by an off-field incident.
Its time to start talking about the issues facing the tournament and tackling them head on.