Moscow, Russia – Eleven Russian cities are playing host to football fans from around the world for the football World Cup that is taking place from June 14 to July 15.
Since ticket sales started last September, Russian fans bagged the highest number of them – 870,000.
This was followed, surprisingly, by fans from a country that failed to qualify for World Cup 2018: the United States, with almost 90,000 tickets. China, a side not known for its football legacy, had around 40,000 fans buying tickets.
But what is the reason behind these fans visiting Russia and watching the football matches? And who will they be supporting?
Al Jazeera speaks to visitors in Moscow who have arrived to watch the “beautiful game”, some of them having never been to a football match before.
Mukami – Kenya
This is my first time in Russia and I’ve come here because I simply love football. I won’t be supporting a team in particular, but am happy to watch and follow any African country that needs my cheers.
Vincent – US and Italy
I have not missed a World Cup since 1990. This time, I decided to spend two months in Moscow because of Russian literature and the culture. Here, I will watch football and learn the language.
I am an Italian and American citizen. I will be supporting the best teams but I’d like to see a country that has never won the World Cup win it this time, maybe Mexico, Belgium or Peru.
Vishaal – Singapore
I’m a huge football fan and I have a pact with my best friend. From our World Cup in Germany 12 years ago, we decided to attend all World Cup as long as our health permits.
It is my first time in Russia and I’m here with my parents. Unfortunately, Singapore’s national team has never qualified for the World Cup and I don’t think it will in four years. Even though I’m a huge Italy fan, I am supporting Argentina this year.
Gerard – Trinidad and Tobago
I would’ve not come to Moscow for any other reason than football. In 2006, I was in Germany and I watched the World Cup in a stadium for the first time.
That was also because Trinidad and Tobago were playing. I then went to Brazil in 2014. This time, we are all supporting Brazil. And even if our team doesn’t make it to Qatar 2022, we will still go.
Porntip – Thailand
I’ve been to Moscow twice already, but visiting again because of the World Cup.
I’ve never thought about playing football, even though women do play in Thailand. But I love watching it because this sport makes me happy.
It would be a proud moment if Thailand is to reach Qatar 2022 but I doubt that would happen.
Shyamal – India
I’m here because I love football and the World Cup is an event to be celebrated every day. This place is full of fans from all over the world and that’s just perfect.
Football culture is now growing in India. We follow the European and English leagues, but we hope to watch our national team one day.
Since India is not playing, I support different countries, mainly Argentina and Brazil, but also Germany. But I’m sure Brazil will win the World Cup.
Joe – Macau
According to FIFA’s rankings, Macau is ranked 185. But I hope our motherland China will play in a World Cup. This year, we are supporting Portugal both because Macau is a Portuguese colony and also because of Cristiano Ronaldo.
This is my first time in Russia and I’ve come with a group of people to watch the matches in Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod.
Niall and Niall – Ireland
Since 2004, we have attended every European Championship and World Cup. There was no way we could’ve missed this one.
The Irish team is in a transition at the moment. The players may not be of the quality as previous years. But they will fare better in the future, I’m sure.
Anyway, we always support the local team and this is the year of Russia. Also, this place has been fantastic – never seen anything like this. It’s more than what we expected.
Roma – China
Football has never been the first sport in China, but now there are a lot of people that have started watching and also studying it. Together with six other friends, we are among those who love football and are happy we came to Russia, even if China is not playing.
And Cristiano Ronaldo is here. We wanted to see him and support Portugal.