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Volgograd offers warm welcome to thousands of football fans arriving for World Cup

Volgograd is very prepared for the World Cup. Photo: PA

Volgograd is laying on a big welcome for the thousands of football fans arriving here.

Teams of young, tracksuit clad, English speaking volunteers ready and waiting outside the city’s train station and newly built arrivals terminal at airport to meet and greet the visitors.

Brimming with excitement they have their large foam hands to offer a big wave and big voices to cheer each fan through with a "welcome to Russia, welcome to Volgograd" shout.

For those heading off flights, slightly unsure what to expect, the response is split between amusement, awkwardness or complete bemusement. That doesn’t deter the welcoming committee though - they have one task and one task alone. To show Russia’s friendly side.

And show it they do because there is a very genuine pride in this city that it has been chosen as one of the 12 stadiums to host this World Cup.

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Chatting to the volunteers it is clear this welcome is more than a diktat sent from above. Yes, President Putin wants this tournament to go without a hitch but so do many ordinary Russians.

They know the common perception of Russia in the West and really want to show a different side to the country they are so proud of.

The Volgograd Arena, where England's opening World Cup group match against Tunisia will be played. Credit: PA

Arriving at our hotel yesterday half the staff seemed to be waiting to receive us.

They’d clearly planned exactly how to receive the new guests and we were the first of their “foreign visitors” to turn up.

In the tiny reception Yelena and Oxanna came forward wearing “I speak English” t-shirts offering to help us however they could, “So everything can be very perfect for you.”

It’s a very different reception from the one we normally receive when working in Russia.

When I saw Yelena this morning her name badge said Helen. I asked her why. “So it’s easier for the English people to say. Helen is a popular name in England isn’t it?”

It was humbling and touching. Volgograd deserves it’s World Cup to be success.