England fans have begun to venture out in Moscow in team colours as anticipation builds for the opening of the World Cup.
James Ellis and Daniel Swaisland took in the atmosphere of Nikolskaya Street, near Red Square, which was packed with thousands of football fans from other nations.
The pair said they were nervous initially about wearing their England away shirts around the city amid warnings of tension between the UK and Russian governments and the memories of fan violence during Euro 2016.
Relations between the Kremlin and Britain have been plunged into the deep freeze since the poisoning of Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in March, with Theresa May pointing the finger at Vladimir Putin’s regime.
But the Three Lions’ fans said they had been pleased with the welcome they had received in the city, which they are visiting while working in the country.
Mr Ellis, 23, from Devizes, Wiltshire, said: “We’ve just been walking around sightseeing, people have been quite welcoming. It’s a good atmosphere, it’s been great.”
Asked if he had been concerned about the possibility of hostility following the attack by Russian hooligans in Marseille two years ago, he said: “It was a concern for us – we were debating ‘shall we walk around with these on or not’.
“You get a lot of attention – not negative attention though.”
Mr Swaisland, 21, from Andover, in Hampshire, said they had met a few other England fans who were reluctant to wear their team colours.
“We’ve been walking around since about 12 noon and we haven’t seen anyone with an England top on,” he said.
Neither men have tickets for any of the games but said they took a few days off to soak up the atmosphere in the capital.
Mr Swaisland said he believed England could win it, while Mr Ellis said he was hoping for a quarter or semi-final.
England play Tunisia in Volgograd, more than 560 miles south of Moscow, on Monday.
- Press Association