Saransk and 5 small towns in the history of the World Cup

Since 2012, when Saransk has received the right to host World Cup football matches, and still many fans are surprised how such a small city got on the list of organizers of such a large-scale event. In today's material, let's try to explain that this decision was absolutely logical and correct. And at the same time tell about other small cities that hosted the World Cup.

In media, there are still many doubts about Saransk as the organizer of the World Cup. Critics reasoned and continue to argue about the advisability of holding a global tournament in such a small provincial city. Today it is obvious that Saransk, despite the problems, fulfilled the basic requirements of FIFA for the city-organizer. This means that the rate on the capital of Mordovia from the Russian authorities and the International Football Federation was at least not losing. For those who still could not understand why it was Saransk in the list of city-organizers of the World Cup 2018, and not, for example, Krasnodar, we suggest taking into account the following theses:

1. FIFA has many goals in its activities. One of them is the popularization of football and the development of football infrastructure in those places where there is potential for this. Saransk is not the most football city in Russia, but with sports traditions and good indicators of urban development.

© Marius Becker/DPA/ Global Look Press


2. FIFA considers each World Cup as a kind of tourist and cultural showcase of the country where this Cup is held. Following its own policy, FIFA always gives away several World Cup matches to small provincial cities with an original culture to show fans a full palette of impressions from the country hostess of the World Cup, and at the same time to connect the provincial regions to the global football holiday. Saransk in this sense is an ideal candidate – a clean provincial 300,000, well-maintained, with a good infrastructure, conveniently located geographically, is considered the Russian center of Finno-Ugric culture. It is important to understand that Saransk, by and large, did not compete with Krasnodar, Voronezh and other relatively large cities, but with exactly the same small regional centers with pronounced ethno-cultural coloring. In this situation, the Saransk competitors were not so much.

3. Let’s not forget that when organizing the World Cup, the geographical location of the cities where the tournament matches will be taken into account. Cities are conditionally divided into clusters in such a way that the World Cup relatively evenly “covered” the territory of the country. Krasnodar, which many fans so persistently wooed in the list of cities-organizers instead of Saransk, will not accept the tournament in many respects for geographical reasons. Sochi has already prepared all the necessary infrastructure for a global event [after the 2014 Winter Olympics], Rostov-on-Don is the largest city in the south of Russia, an important cultural and historical center. To add to the Southern Cluster [Sochi and Rostov-on-Don], Krasnodar authorities also logically considered it redundant for the 2018 World Cup matches. So Saransk has nothing to do with it.

4. Finally, Saransk is simply a good city. Most skeptics who criticize the capital of Mordovia and represent it as a provincial backwater, have never seen Saransk live. Usually after a personal visit, the opinion changes. Yes, there are problems with leisure, with historical sights, but there are enough advantages for holding 4 matches of the group stage of the World Cup.


Thus, Saransk quite logically and reasonably became one of the organizers of the main football event on the planet. In the history of the World Cup, there were many other smaller cities, which also became part of the history of this tournament. Let us recall some of them.

World Cup 1990 in Italy. The city of Cagliari. The population is 154,000 people.

The 1990 World Cup, held on the margins of Italy, is perhaps not one of the most memorable and spectacular in the history of the World Cup. Maradona dragged the “dead” Argentina to the finals, in which the German team won – cynically, with a penalty at the end of the match. The Italians went crazy, passionately rooting for their own, but it did not help – the “scuadra adzurra” flew safely in the semifinals. Lost all the same Argentina in a series of post-match penalties.

Football in Italy is not just a game – a whole cult that thrives in both large and very small cities. In 1990, World Cup matches hosted Cagliari – a small town on the island of Sardinia. The local stadium “Sant Elia” was opened in 1970, it had to be modernized significantly to Mundial. Spent at that time 24 billion lire [40% more than planned – yes, this happens not only in Russia]. As a result, 3 matches of the group stage were played at Sant-Elia, and a record 35.267 spectators were competing on the England-Netherlands game.


Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia, the main city in the most distinctive region of Italy. Cagliari, in the first place, is the sun, the sea and a unique historical heritage. It’s no surprise that the World Cup was held there, and only 150 000 people are not a hindrance. In the city there is a football club “Cagliari” – once the champion of Serie A [Italy’s main football league], but now the stars from the sky are not enough.

WC 1998 in France. City of Saint-Etienne. The population is 171,000 people.

The World Cup in France is considered to be one of the best. It was the first modern format tournament [32 teams in the final section] and at that moment the most productive in history [171 goals, the record could be repeated at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil].

The championship ended in the triumph of Zinedine Zidane and the French team, in the finals unexpectedly easily figured out with the legendary Brazilians. The tournament took place in 10 cities, including Saint-Etienne, with a population of 171,000. Saint-Etienne is famous primarily for its weapons industry [during the Great French Revolution, the city was even briefly renamed Arm-Wille – “weapon city”], and recently it is known for the production of bicycles.


Saint-Etienne is not the most popular city in France in terms of tourism. But there are good football traditions – the local club “Saint-Etienne” is a tenfold champion of France. True, the last title was won in the distant 1981.

World Cup 2002 in South Korea and Japan. The city of Seogwipo. The population is 155,000 people.

The 2002 World Cup among fans is often called CHMYAK [World Cup in Japan and South Korea]. Thanks to this tournament, the Japanese and Koreans experienced a real football boom, and the Brazilians, headed by the “Phenomenon” Ronaldo, became pentacampones – five-time world champions.

ЧМЯК became the first World Cup, the games of which took place at once in two countries. Games championship took as many as 20 cities in Japan and South Korea, among them and Sogwipo – a small town on the south side of the Korean island of Jeju. Sogwipho is an example of the positive impact of the World Cup on football on the development of tourism. The World Championship gave a good impetus to the development of tourist infrastructure – since 2002, mono observed a significant influx of foreigners who want to relax on local beaches, dive and admire the magnificent waterfalls.


The 35-thousandth Seogwipo Stadium hosted three World Cup matches in 2002. Now it is played by the local team Jeju United FC.

World Cup 2006 in Germany. The city of Kaiserslautern. The population is 100,000 people.

The 2006 Mundial in Germany was practically ideal from the organizational point of view – German pedantry and love of order showed themselves to the fullest. In addition to the excellent organization, the tournament was remembered by the great young German team [that was when the backbone of the “bundestim”, which subsequently won many awards] began to form and, of course, the ill-fated blow of Zinedine Zidane’s head in the chest of Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the final match. The captain of the French team was removed from the field, and the Italians became four-time world champions.

Kaiserslautern became one of the 12 German cities where the tournament games took place. This city is small even by the Saransk standards – only 100 000 population. Despite its ancient and rather rich history, the inhabitants of Kaiserslautern are primarily known for the fact that there is the largest foreign military base in the United States. About 45,000 NATO military, mostly Americans, live in the city and its environs. They call Kaiserslautern “K-city” – so much easier than to pronounce a difficult-to-pronounce German name.


Local team “Kaiserslautern” is quite successful by the standards of the local championship – 4 times was the champion of Germany. The team plays home games at the Fritz Walter stadium, the legendary captain of the German team, who won the World Cup in 1954. Fritz-Walter-Stadion took as many as five matches of the World Cup in 2006, including 1/8 finals. The stadium holds about 50,000 people, that is, almost half the population of Kaiserslautern.

World Cup 2010 in South Africa. The city of Mbombela. The population is 58,000 people.

In 2010, the World Cup was played for the first time on the African continent – in the South African Republic. Under the sounds of Vuvuzel, the world champion [and also for the first time] was the magnificent Spanish team.

That championship in many respects turned out exotic. One of the city-organizers was a tiny Mbombela with a population of 58,000 people [almost like Ruzaevka]. Despite its small size, Mbombela is one of the industrial centers of South Africa. To the World Cup there built a 40-thousand stadium, next to the Kruger National Park – the oldest national park in the country. For obvious reasons, the stadium after the World Cup is filled rarely – only at major competitions, such as the Cup of African Nations 2013. However, the stadium itself is multifunctional, so there are various sports and social events, not just football matches.


We talked only about the 5 small cities that hosted the World Cup soccer matches. In fact, in the history of the World Cup there were much more. In the summer of this year, the list will be replenished by Saransk. And there is every reason to believe that it will do it at a decent level.



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