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England fans enjoying warm welcome in Russia

19 June 2018 08:30

England fans are enjoying the atmosphere in Russia

England fans are enjoying the atmosphere in Russia

An England fan has urged supporters back home to head to Russia and experience the warm welcome he's been enjoying from locals.

Speaking in Volgograd ahead of England's opening game against Tunisia on Monday evening, fan Billy Grant said Russians have welcomed him with open arms.

Mr Grant, a Brentford fan from north London, said he'd been nervous about travelling to Russia because of fears over fan violence, racism, and ongoing political tensions.

Last-minute decision

But having decided just last week to make the trip to Russia, Mr. Grant said he'd been "blown away" by the welcome he'd received from locals ahead of Monday's match.

Mr Grant was among the England fans who paid tribute to Soviet war dead at a wreath-laying ceremony at the city's Hall of Military Glory.

He said: "Being a black football fan, being a black England fan I was nervous to come out here.

"But in the weeks coming up to the tournament I was chatting to my Russian hosts and they've all been messaging each other and they said 'don't worry Billy, you're going to have a great time, there's no problems here, it'll be fantastic'.

"And it gave me a lot of hope and confidence, and by the time I came out I was telling my friends, there's no problem.

"They're going 'hey Billy have you written your will?' And I'm like 'don't be ridiculous, it's going to be fine'.

Taking Photographs

"When I got off the plane I was still a little bit nervous but as soon as I got into town and walking down in the fan fest, people coming up hugging you, taking photographs.

"All the Russians were going 'thank you for coming to our country, are you enjoying yourselves?' And I think that's really nice.

"I would say to everybody - don't believe what you read, come out and see it for yourselves."

He said he had met a few Nigerian fans who have lived in the city for seven years and joined around 70 of them in the Fifa fan zone.

Mr Grant, a video blogger and record executive, said he had brought his Russian hosts gifts of teabags and Brentford shirts.

He added: "I'm buzzing and I'm so glad I didn't not come.

"The fact I made my mind up to come a week ago to Russia, I'm so happy that I came and I think anybody who didn't come unfortunately you are missing a good one."

As for the match, he said he did not want to get too confident, having attended 13 major tournaments in the past.

"I'm reeling it back a little bit and I'll just say we'll only win 2-0," he said.

If you're planning a last-minute trip to Russia this summer, make sure you've got the right travel insurance . Check out our insurance options and get the right cover for you.