Migrants from Africa and Asia staged their own version of the World Cup on Red Square in Moscow on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
The event, held to highlight the challenges faced by refugees in Russia, was organized by the anti-discrimination network Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE) and the Civic Assistance Committee, which aids migrants and refugees.
Immigrant World Cup
Players from Syria, Afghanistan and African countries including Ivory Coast, Congo and Nigeria, participated in a series of matches in a Fifa-designated Football Park on Red Square. Despite fears this tournament could be tarnished by racism or xenophobia, no major incident has been reported to date.
"This event is to draw attention to the problems of discrimination, xenophobia," said Svetlana Gannushkina, an advocate for migrant rights and head of the Civic Assistance Committee. "For us it is also to show the authorities that there are these great guys and they should be given (formal refugee) status".
St Basil's and the Kremlin backdrop
Traoere Kadjale, a 27-year-old Ivorian immigrant in Moscow, told Reuters he was delighted to get the chance play football right in front of the famous St Basil's cathedral and next to the Kremlin walls.
"It's really fun for us, it brings us joy. So we are asking Russia to give us an opportunity. Football players like us, who are here, we can also express ourselves," he said.
There are currently an estimated 4 million illegal immigrants from former Soviet states in Russia. Those who are caught are banned from reentering the country for ten years.