MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. -- Real Salt Lake and Armenia international forward Yura Movsisyan insists that the 2018 World Cup in Russia will be "the best World Cup this world has ever seen," and that fans need not worry about their safety.
With the tournament now less than 18 months away, worries over terrorism, the country's infrastructure, hooliganism, and racism from the host country's fans are significant. The fact that the security effort for the 2014 Winter Olympics proved to be successful hasn't been enough to allay these concerns.
Yet Movsisyan, speaking to ESPN FC exclusively at MLS Media Day, is convinced the tournament will come off without any major problems. The RSL forward played in Russia for five seasons, one for FC Krasnodar, and four more for Spartak Moscow.
"I know Russian people, and I know what type of people they are," Movsisyan said. "They are very friendly, welcoming people, and I believe that this is going to be the best World Cup anybody has ever hosted because first of all, they know what people think of them.
"They're going to make sure nothing happens. They're going to make sure everybody is smiling on the streets. They're going to make sure everybody is happy. They're going to make sure that people, when they leave Russia they say, 'Okay, I used to think this way about this country, but it's not actually that way.' They're going to prove to people that it's not all bad and it's not all speculation.
"A lot of people talk a lot of nonsense before even knowing what it is just because they're behind a computer or behind a television screen. They've never even set foot into Russia and they start talking about Russia like they know everything about it."
There are further concerns that the Russian government isn't taking racism seriously. A Guardian report from June of 2015 documented over 100 such incidents in the preceding two seasons of the Russian League. Following EURO 2012, the Russian Football Union was fined for racist chants that Russian fans directed at Czech Republic defender Theodor Gebre Selassie. That has led to worries about the reception non-white fans attending the event could receive.
Movsisyan didn't deny that such incidents take place in Russia, but added that racism isn't a problem that is unique to Russia, and that the host country will take the necessary measures to make sure everyone enjoys the tournament.
"There's also racism here [in the U.S.], as we're living today and we're seeing every day," he said. "I don't think it's going to be such a big difference. Normal people will never see it. If you're going as a tourist, or as a commentator, you will never see that. Those things will not happen. I know the president [Vladimir Putin] will make sure none of that happens there.
"Unfortunately racism is everywhere. It doesn't have to be in Russia or America. Racism is in Germany, in Spain. I've faced racism in Germany and Spain. Everywhere there is racism which is sad to be honest because, why can't we just get along and live happily?"
Movsisyan added: "I would say, I'm excited for [the World Cup], because a lot of my friends are going to be playing in it, and hopefully my country [Armenia] will be playing in it.
"I think they'll be one of the best hosts in all of World Cup history because they are so friendly, and because they want to be the best, and because they're going to spend the money for everything. So I think it will probably be one of the safest World Cups that have ever been hosted."