October 13 – At last news from Russia that isn’t about doping, racist incidents or national team players going wild in Monaco nightclubs. Russia 2018 organiser have named Nikita Simonyan as a World Cup ambassador.
Simonyan, who celebrated his 90th birthday yesterday, holds a special place in Russian football legend.
He was part of the USSR squad that won the gold medal at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne (a time when Russians used to be welcomed at the Olympics). Two years later he captained the national team at their first World Cup in Sweden in 1958. He later went on to coach the USSR team.
A striker with Spartak Moscow he won four national championships (1952, 1953, 1956 and 1958), two Soviet Cups (1950 and 1958). He was Russia’s leading scorer in domestic competition in 1949, 1950 and 1953 and scored 186 goals in his career, putting him in the all-time top five of Soviet and Russian goalscorers. An old Soviet who scored goals in the right end in contrast to the current crowd who have developed a knack for scoring own-goals off the pitch.
“It’s a great honour for me to receive the status of World Cup 2018 Ambassador. Undoubtedly, the organisation of the tournament will be of the highest level. I mean infrastructure, hotels, airports, roads and so on. I’m hoping for a good performance from our team and want to see them play with fierce passion in front of the home fans,” said Simonyan.
CEO of the Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee Alexey Sorokin was equally delighted, presumably to be able to announce a good news story.
“Nikita Simonyan is a living legend who embodies our footballing history… We were, therefore, greatly honoured when Nikita Simonyan agreed to become an ambassador of the upcoming World Cup in Russia, which will no doubt become a bright, new chapter in the history of the national sport,” he said.
Certainly there will be new chapters to write about Russia’s national game and the 2018 World Cup in Russia, which seems to have been almost sidelined in news terms with other, often geo-politically driven sports headlines, dominating Russian news in the west this summer past.
The Simonyan announcement almost seems tongue-in-cheek but it is a gentle reminder from the Russians that 2018 is not so far away, and before that they have the Confederations Cup.
Simonyan is the fourth 2018 FIFA World Cup ambassador and joins goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, former Russia captain Aleksei Smertin and distinguished pianist Denis Matsuev (presumably he is there to help all sides face the music).
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