An ancient plague that has been mentioned in the Bible, Iliad, and Quran is now threatening the quadrennial international tournament of one of the world’s most popular team sports. According to Russian officials, the upcoming 21st FIFA World Cup may be in danger of being plagued by a swarm of locusts. In a statement to the Associated Press, Russia’s agricultural ministry has revealed that they are now closely monitoring the species of short-horned grasshoppers, but are expecting the worst. Officials have apparently already prepared measures to deal with the possible swarming of the insects, but they are fearful that the entire event could become an “international locust scandal.” The exact measures to deal with the problem have not yet been divulged, but short of completely closing off the stadiums, nothing can really be done to stop a swarm from wreaking havoc during the event itself.
According to an agricultural ministry official, via CBS Sports, the locusts may very well swarm the soccer fields in the different new stadiums they have built simply because the insects are attracted to green fields. The official stated that millions of hectares of land in Southern Russia are already being infested. In the past, the flying insects have devastated entire civilizations and have caused famines and total destruction. With the help of advanced means of control using chemicals and monitoring systems, locust swarming events have gone down considerably. Russian officials are of course hoping for the best when the time comes, but they are still advising football fans to be prepared for a possible locust invasion during the different matches that will be held.
All but one of the venues for the tournament will be in European Russia. The country was officially awarded the right to host the highly popular tournament in 2010, making the upcoming event the first World Cup to be held in Europe since 2006. Russian President Vladimir Putin is reportedly hoping to use the event to flaunt his country’s status as a world power amidst the growing tensions over Ukraine and Syria.
The upcoming tournament will include 32 national teams, with Russia’s team being automatically qualified due to their country being the host of the event. All of the top teams that competed in the 2014 FIFA World Cup will be returning, which includes the defending champions Germany. Meanwhile, Panama and Iceland will be making their first-ever appearance at a FIFA World Cup event. The tournament, which will be held from June 14 to July 15, will kick off with an opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia on the first day at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.