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(WFI) New FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura will make her first trip to 2018 World Cup hosts Russia next week.

Samoura’s deputy, former Croatian international Zvonimir Boban, is also in FIFA’s delegation travelling to Moscow along with competitions director Colin Smith. Appointed a few weeks ago, Boban is tasked with “developing football and organising competitions” – which makes him responsible for delivering the Russia and Qatar World Cups for FIFA.

Samoura will have meetings with sports minister Vitaly Mutko, the Russia 2018 chief and FIFA ExCo member, and his team including CEO Alexey Sorokin.

She will seek assurances about progress on the 12 World Cup host stadiums in 11 Russian cities and is expected to tour Moscow’s Luznihiki Stadium, venue for the opening match and final, which is undergoing a major facelift to raise capacity to 81,000.

Earlier this month, FIFA president Gianni Infantino, on a visit to Russia, downplayed concerns over delays on some of the stadiums; nine of them are said to require major construction work, while St Petersburg’s trouble-hit World Cup stadium has needed a cash injection to accelerate preparations. Sorokin has promised that the biggest and most expensive 2018 World Cup venue in St. Petersburg will be finished by the end of the year.

Russian fan violence at the Euro 2016 Championship in France is an important topic requiring urgent and serious attention at the meeting. FIFA officials will want to hear from Mutko and Russia’s football federation about new plans to tackle the scourge of Russian hooliganism, which reared its ugly head at the start of UEFA’s flagship tournament.

Stadium preparations, fan racism and hooliganism are among topics up for discussion at the 9th board meeting of the Russia World Cup local organizing committee on July 5. Preparations for next year’s FIFA Confederations Cup are also on the agenda.

Samoura and Mutko will address media after the board meeting at a press conference on Tuesday.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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