Authorities in the Russian city of Volgograd are spraying vanilla concentrate to try to stop huge clouds of gnats from impacting the World Cup games being played at the city's stadium.
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The gnats attracted almost as much attention as the soccer during a game between England and Tunisia last Monday. Swarms of the insects were visible on television and players batted and swatted at them throughout the game. One German TV journalist took extreme measures, donning a bee-keeping mask during her broadcast.
“There were a lot more than I first thought ... some of them in your eyes, some of them in your mouth,” England’s captain, Harry Kane, told reporters after his team won 2-1.
To try to head off the problem ahead of Friday's match between Iceland and Nigeria, city authorities said they were spraying vanilla concentrate on trees and shrubs around the stadium, the state news agency TASS reported.
“The vanilla concentrate will not create inconveniences for fans, but it will be enough to repel the gnats,” one official told TASS.
Formerly known as Stalingrad and the site of the Second World War's bloodiest battle, Volgograd is located in southwest Russia on the huge Volga River — the longest river in Europe that stretches hundreds of meters wide. The waters and marshes around the city are ideal breeding grounds for the gnats during the hot, dry summers there.
Organizers had known the insects would be a nuisance during the World Cup and had taken other measures before the tournament, using helicopters to spray pesticide on nearby marshland. Authorities had also reportedly regulated the flow of water through a hydro-electric dam, which locals believe has an effect on the flies' numbers.
Large trucks with sprayers on the front were seen hosing the roads with vanilla concentrate near the fan zone set up for people to watch game. Volunteers were also handing out bug spray. Rules banning liquids from being brought into the fan zone had been relaxed to allow people to bring in their own repellent.
Dantata Ubaidullah, a Nigerian fan, told Reuters: “We came close to the river and they were almost entering our eyes, our ears and they flew around your face wherever you go."
But both Nigerian and Icelandic fans getting ready for their teams’ match said they didn’t believe their players would be put off by the flies.
“This doesn't bother us because we are from Iceland. Our players are tough, they won't complain at all,” Egill Skallagrimsson told Reuters.
"The heat the flies the mosquitoes, everything - it feels like home so I think it's an advantage to Nigeria than to Iceland,” Ubaidullah added.