The star-studded lineup for the FIFA Final World Cup Draw at the State Kremlin Palace on December 1 will feature one special guest in 75-year-old superfan Viktor Pautov from Saransk.
Pautov is a trombonist by trade, and has provided musical accompaniment to football matches in the Republic of Mordovia's capital city, Saransk, for 20 years, and will play the national anthems of every team playing there during the FIFA World Cup.
The musician is a regular at matches of Russian third tier side Mordovia Saransk, going whatever the weather, and told FIFA TV in August that his love affair with the game began when he was "introduced to football by [a] friend."
"Our team were playing away at Volga Ulyanovsk and he said to me, come to Ulyanovsk with me, it will be fun," Pautov said. "I wasn't sure but he eventually talked me round. So the two of us and my trombone went to the game together.
"Since then, when I don't have a performance, I am always at the stadium," added Pautov, who especially plays the Russian Victory Day (Den Pobedy) song when Mordovia win a match.
A member of the local theater's orchestra for over 50 years, Pautov has become synonymous with his local team at their home ground, Start Stadium, where he leads the team with trombone music.
He has even become known by locals through his theater appearances as the "common link between theater and football."
Pautov will be one of 11 guests of honor representing each of the Russia 2018 host cities, fulfilling the role alongside Misha Smolin, 6, the youngest superfan who will represent Moscow, the only host city to feature two World Cup venues – Spartak Stadium and Luzhniki.
Young fanatic Misha is hoping to wear one of the 300 football scarves that his family has been collecting for generations at a match during the World Cup.
The ‘superfans’ will attend the Final Draw ceremony at the State Kremlin Palace on December 1, which will be assisted by eight ‘FIFA Legends,’ including Argentine icon Diego Maradona and Soviet great Nikita Simonyan.
Among the guests in attendance, delegations from the 32 competing nations will be present at the event. The Final Draw for the tournament will be held at the State Kremlin Palace on Friday, at 6pm Moscow time. Other legends include Diego Forlan, Laurent Blanc, Fabio Cannavaro, Carles Puyol, Gordon Banks, and Cafu.
On Tuesday, the official poster for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, featuring Russian goalkeeping great Lev Yashin accompanied by Soviet artwork, was revealed along with a Moscow metro train whose interior is dedicated to the World Cup.