Tens of thousands of people from Central and South America are spending part of their summer in Russia.
They have gone to Moscow and 10 other Russian cities for the championship of international football, the FIFA 2018 World Cup. They have been cheering on football teams from across Latin America -- from Mexico and Colombia to Peru and Argentina.
Yet some of the many Europeans who are in Russia for the World Cup appear less excited. They said their friends at home told them they were foolish to go.
The French news agency AFP says the differences among football fans at the biggest event in sports is a sign of Russia’s slow move away from Europe since 2000. That is the year when Vladimir Putin became the country’s president.
Russia is now welcoming new allies that happen to love football, a sport known as soccer in the United States. Central and South American media rarely report about Russian wrongdoing or poisoning cases.
Zbigniew Iwanowski is with the Institute of Latin American Studies in Moscow. He noted that, "Russia's image is better in Latin America than it is in Europe and the US."
Colombian football fan Mauricio Miranda praised what he saw in Moscow. He said, "We didn't expect it to be this beautiful and the people are amazing."
Jo De Munter of Belgium, a public relations specialist, does not necessarily disagree. But he said his friends do. "I think Europeans are a bit afraid,” he added.
Europeans and Latin Americans are more likely to attend World Cup events held in their home countries because travel planning is easier and they know the area.
But many Europeans made the long trip across the African continent in 2010 to witness the World Cup in South Africa.
Information from FIFA, football’s governing body, showed almost 50 percent more Britons bought tickets for the South Africa World Cup than the games in Russia.
Australians were in third place in 2010, but are just ninth for ticket sales in Russia.
Germany and England bought the fourth and fifth most World Cup tickets in 2010, and France was ninth.
France dropped out of the top 10 in Russia, while Britain dropped down to last place. Germany stayed in fourth place.
The United States has long led purchases among non-hosting countries because of its economy and large communities from Mexico and Central America.
Without counting the U.S., Latin Americans bought two-thirds of the tickets sold to the top 10 countries.
Many fans from Latin America are office workers in big cities. For example, Colombia's Mauricio Miranda is a city planner with a new job in Canada.
Alexandro Grado is a former financial adviser with Mexico's Citibanamex. He now owns a plastics recycling business. He said, "Going to Russia is not expensive if you buy everything ahead of time."
Yet not all fans have enough money to enjoy restaurants near the Kremlin. Sociologists who study soccer say this is where Latin American football federations come in.
Ludovic Lestrelin is with the Universite de Caen in Normandy, France. He said less wealthy fans in Europe get far less travel and housing assistance from government agencies. He adds that they are increasingly more likely to stay home and watch World Cup action on television.
This means Europeans who attend World Cups are likely to be richer than the average football fan. But Latin American visitors are more likely to come from all economic classes and walks of life.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Jonathan Evans adapted this story based on a report from Agence France Presse. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
ticket – n. a piece of paper that enables a person to see a show or travel in a vehicle
amazing – adj. surprising
non-hosting – adj. something that does not hold an event
expensive – adj. costing a lot of money
reflect – v. to show something; to make known
federation – n. an organization made by joining together smaller groups