World Cup pitches at risk of locust attacks, says official

World Cup pitches are at risk from attacks by swarms of locusts, an agricultural official in Russia has warned.

Pyotr Chekmarev, head of the agriculture ministry's crop farming department, is concerned there could be "a global scandal" if the insects strike during the finals.

"One way or another, we have learnt how to deal with locusts, but how do we not fall into a global scandal with locusts this year?" he said at an agricultural event in Moscow.

"The whole world is coming here. Football fields are green. Locusts love it where there is lots of green. How would they not come to the place where football is being played?"

Eleven host cities will stage matches at 12 venues in June and July this year, including the capital Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod, Sochi and Kazan.

It is claimed close to a million hectares of land in southern Russia, including areas near Volgograd, are infested with locusts.

The warning comes after several of the World Cup venues were praised for their status as eco-friendly sites.

"Stadiums today are not just squares for games of football. They are huge entertainment and sport centres, which attract a huge number of people," said Milan Verkhunov, director of the tournament organising committee's Sustainable Development Department, as quoted by RT.

"Thanks to the fact that the stadiums of the FIFA 2018 World Cup are being constructed with ecological and social criteria in mind, they will also have an influence on the improvement of quality of life for the townspeople.

"Such practice is not just an important element of the legacy of World Cup 2018, but also allows us to move to a new level of ecological culture in the country as a whole."

The tournament begins on June 14.

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