2018 World Cup: Small Kaliningrad ready to host big games
MOSCOW: Kaliningrad is the capital of a small territory isolated from the rest of Russia and sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania.
With a major Russian naval base nearby, the port city is packed with history. And nearby Baltic Sea beaches could prove irresistible for World Cup fans in good weather. Kaliningrad will host a game that could make or break the World Cup hopes of England or Belgium.
Here’s what you need to know about one of the 11 host cities in Russia:
One of the smallest stadiums used at a World Cup since 2002, the simply named Kaliningrad Stadium seats 35,000. Its rather conservative design is decorated blue and white to evoke the nearby sea and Kaliningrad’s maritime history. Buses will be organized to transport fans to the remote location on a largely undeveloped island.
After the World Cup, it will be used by Baltika Kaliningrad, currently a team playing in Russia’s second division.
WHAT TO KNOW
Kaliningrad is one for the history buffs. Under the name Koenigsberg, it was a political and cultural center for Germans for hundreds of years, but much of that heritage was destroyed during World War II.
After the Soviet collapse in 1991, it became a haven for smugglers. Local officials are trying hard to reinvent the city as a tourist destination in the way nearby Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have done.
WHAT TO WATCH
Kaliningrad will host four matches, starting with the Group D game between Croatia and Nigeria on June 16. Serbia will then take on Switzerland in Group E on June 22, followed by a Group B match between Spain and Morocco on June 25.
The final match in the city on June 28 is likely to draw the most interest. That’s when England will take on Belgium in Group G.