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he expects an end date of April, but he admits the project has not gone quite as he hoped.

“It hasn’t been without the human factor,” he says.

“Each set of fans prayed that their star players would not be in solitary confinement once matchday came around,” Grimm notes.

For Soviet Russia’s dissident movement, Mordovia was instantly associated with the Gulag.

One hangar-like structure has the word “canteen” written on it.

A short walk away from the camps are unattractive grey, two-storey buildings – these are the houses of prisoner guard families.

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But one account from the 1960s, describing the wonders of competitive football in the region, gives pause.By any count, Mordovia is a strange choice to host an international football tournament.And work on the Mordovia Arena, in the Russian region’s capital Saransk, is behind schedule.He was sent there in 1963 as punishment for distributing leaflets criticising the politics of then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.According to Grimm’s memoir, the Gulag prison officers encouraged competitive sports as a way to keep their prisoners off drink and politics.

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