Despite being diplomatically isolated as a result of the Ukraine conflict, Russia faces little hostility from African leaders, many of whom have gathered in St Petersburg for the Russia-Africa summit where many top footballers are set to play a gala match together.
Melvin Camden is among them and is grateful for the opportunity.
"I would like to start by thanking you for issuing visas to us, so that we could participate in the championship," he says.
"That is to say, they still love Africans and they want to ensure that we are united together."
Russia has been banned from all major international competitions but the country has drawn up an intercontinental student tournament on the summit's sidelines.
Coach of the Cameroon international student team William DeAnda thinks it is good for the countries to work together.
"The population of Africa needs a good relationship between Africa and Russia because it is more practice," he says. "It is more real than the other colonial relationship that we have with countries in Europe or America."
The first day of the forum includes a session on using sports as a bridge of friendship between Russia and Africa.
Russia’s sports project, the World Friendship Games, scheduled for September 2024, will also be showcased at the forum.
Andrey Stukalov, president, National Student Football League says: "This is a good platform to revive international competitions, so we decided to start with Africa.
"We decided to invite these four African universities, I think that in the near future we will consider a similar version of the Russia-Asia, Russia- Latin America meeting, and it will be just as interesting. And so we could gradually resume that influence and that activity internationally that we had before Covid."
The sports programme in St Petersburg will also feature a diplomats' match, where employees from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and African embassies will compete together.