The 2018 World Cup has reached its halfway point, the colour and noise created by over a million fans involved in a multi-national celebration of this kind throws up so many emotions and hundreds of stories, on and off the field.
For Fare the World Cup began with the launch of the Diversity Houses in Moscow and St. Petersburg on the opening day of the tournament. The Houses were created as initiatives to celebrate diversity and inclusion and create a space for exchanges involving fans, Russians and civil society. The launch in Moscow was attended by former players, representatives from FIFA, the Russian FA, NGOs and international media.
Alexei Smertin, the former Russia international midfielder and Russian FA anti-discrimination officer; Federico Addiechi, Head of Sustainability at FIFA; and Russian human rights campaigner Svetlana Gannushkina joined Piara Powar, Executive Director of the Fare network, and former players including Jason Roberts, Karina LeBlanc and many others.
The launch was followed the next day by the launch of the Football For All campaign by the Russian LGBT Sports Federation who have been an active presence at the Moscow House throughout the tournament.
The opening match of the World Cup brought with it a historical moment for the LGBT community. For the first time a Rainbow flag flew in a Russian stadium. A milestone that was captured on social media and widely shared.
But the tournament has not been without its challenges. On the eve of it’s opening the Diversity House in St. Petersburg was shut down following a mysterious withdrawal of permission from the ownership of the building, seemingly linked to disapproval from local authorities in St. Petersburg.
The effective closing down of one of Fare’s flagship project spaces for the World Cup was a cause for concern, but local co-ordinators found a new venue very quickly and with the political backing of FIFA it has operated without interference.
On World Refugee Day (20 June) we celebrated the impact that refugees have on life and culture through the Fare 2018 World Cup Refugee XI. A team chosen from players from the 32 countries at the World Cup who themselves sought refuge or are the children of refugees. This team has experience and flair in abundance, we think it could reach the quarter finals.
There has been support for the Diversity House projects from across football - fans, football administrators and ordinary people. And players, too. One of the greatest African players of modern times Yaya Toure paid a visit to the Diversity House in Moscow, offering his support to the concept.
It was my pleasure to visit @farenet’s #DiversityHouse today!— Yaya Touré (@YayaToure) June 24, 2018
All my career I have stood against racism and discrimination. I wanted to thank the campaigners fighting this issue every day.
We should all support them as much as possible. https://t.co/noCc9dtDw8
Amidst all the colour and the dramas the one ugly side of the World Cup that has been wide documented has been the widespread sexist treatment of women by male fans. We blogged about the context of it at the World Cup and why it needs to stop.
Also part of our work in Russia has been a group of international experts who have travelled to the World Cup as in-stadium observers. The observers are in stadiums as part of an international observer scheme project with FIFA.
Also in Russia, Fare activities have included an online guide to the country for minorities visiting for the first time and a WhatsApp helpline for people who require advice.
In the weeks ahead events are taking place at the Diversity Houses every day. Check out @farenet or www.diversityguide2018.com for a full programme and information about all you need to know if you are in Russia during the tournament.