England travel to Russia for this summer’s World Cup under something of a political cloud; relations between the two countries have been damaged over recent months, but former Miss Russia, Victoria Lopyreva, is going on a charm offensive in a bid to mask any issues.
The 34-year-old, who won the national accolade in 2003, was briefly part of the ‘Beckhams of Russia’ when she was married to striker Fedor Smolov, who has been a target for West Ham in recent months, but she has found a new role as the tournament’s ambassador. Further damage to the relationship between the two nations has come in the form of football hooliganism and racism; two sets of fans clashed when England played Russia at Euro 2016 in France, but again, Lopyreva is at the forefront of the bridge building ahead of the biggest sporting event in the world, which kicks off in just over a month’s time.
There have been dozens of cases of racism at football in Russia over the years, and it is understandable that some minorities, both players and fans, may be concerned about heading to the country for the four-week football festival. Russia is a country also known to be less than welcoming of the LGBT community, and these are just a few of the challenges facing Lopyreva on her ‘campaign’ trail, but she is winning people over with her charm.
Many are expecting this summer’s tournament to be a success, and a lot of that is down to her work, particularly on Instagram, where she has documented a lot of it. Check out a few of her posts below. Thanks to her, the World Cup build-up has had a lot of positive press.