England V Columbia. Moscow Spartak Stadium.
Well bugger me with a fish fork, England only went and won a penalty shootout!!!
Before we get to the game bit though there were a few days spent existing in Moscow before match day. I caught one of the FIFA free trains from St Petersburg to Moscow, which was absolutely spot on. If you are unsure what I mean by that then, for the duration of the tournament, There are special free trains laid on by FIFA to transport fans to the various cities that are hosting the matches (of which there can be a 1000 miles plus between). To Book onto the train you require a valid match ticket for the game, a Fan ID (holds each individuals passport details and also acts as your Visa), and your passport. The trains are great and help you save a lot of money on transport costs.
After arrival in Moscow myself and Frankie Knuckles, moved into an apartment in the west of the city near the Spartak ground. The place was supposed to be plush with modern facilities but was in fact a absolute dosshole. Dirty sheets on beds, washing up in the sink, floors dirty etc etc. After a ongoing discussion with the owner we decided to leave and get a refund and moved to another place more central to the city. There than began two days of alcohol abuse during which we met up with a select group of England fans and formed a strong and very unbalanced drinking squad. We all watched the Russians qualify for the quarter finals and then went out into Moscow to watch the whole city go into massive party mode. It went mental, people flooded the streets waving flags and sounding car horns; It was a fantastic atmosphere and to be stood in and around Red Square whilst the capital celebrated was a memory I will cherish.
The following evening we found a great bar on the street of lights (one of the streets off Red Square), and held an impromptu gathering which lead to the first bit of bad blood that I have seen during the whole World Cup. The bar was full of Colombians & Argentinians and our group of English. It was a good atmosphere and everyone getting along. Some singing started and in a preview of what was to happen in the stadium, the English contingent was beat on volume due to the 3 times as many South Americans. This made them very happy each time but then they did not like that the English would just go straight from one song to the next and keep going. They have 1 maybe 2 songs which they sing loudly and then finish, but as soon as they stopped all they would hear is our voices hammering away.
This was all taken in the spirit that it should be and before long all groups were intermingled, chatting and drinking. There were though 2 Argentinians who were getting very anti. These 2 guys were throwing the dirty looks about and I could see some of the English were starting to sharpen their bayonets. It came down to these two guys having a chip on their shoulder about the falklands!!! Neither would have been alive during the conflict as both were probably mid to late 20’s but they were not happy and one even had the Falklands tattooed on his arm. Things were not far from tipping over when I tried a different tactic. I went up to the most vocal guy and offered to shake his hand…he refused so I stuck with it. I offered to buy him a beer and just kept trying to shake his hand. His refusal to shake hands or have a beer slowly turned everyone in the room against him and all the South Americans started asking him why he had bought politics to football….eventually he had enough and got up and left along with his couple of English hating mates….there is More than one way to skin a cat!
Game day and well what can I say….again England fans were in fine voice behind the goal but the stadium was a mass of yellow shirts for Columbia. The Columbia team played a dirty game and the refereeing was very weak. It was 5 minutes from the penalty being given before Harry Kane hit the ball and during that time the Columbian team were almost assaulting the referee whilst their team mates tried their hardest to destroy the penalty spot. Great save by Pickford lead to a winning corner producing extra time and dampening the Fans spirits.
I was convinced we had blew it and was a bit depressed to say the least. I forced myself to watch the penalties, with the reasoning that how many times in my life would I get to see a World Cup penalty shootout live. Henderson’s miss sent me to a dark place and it became obvious that if Columbia were going to win there was going to be trouble in the ground. Then…. sweet baby Jesus and the Orphans…. we only went and pulled it off, meaning the party continues for a few more days at least. The England fans behind the goal stayed for about an hour and a half afterwards to just singing and having fun, it was a special atmosphere.
I went straight home after this as I was drained and had no energy left. It was a mixture of 3-4 weeks of partying and the emotional rollercoaster of the game but I felt sooooo tired.
The following day saw another free train to Samara and the surprise of some lovely beaches with very hot weather. It’s chill out and relax time before we do it all again on Saturday.
My nerves are healing, ready to go again and my tan is topping up.
Well in true World Cup tradition my blogging has fell by the wayside for a few days due to me just having to much fun and then spending time afterwards recovering.
Since writing the above I have.
1) Taken an overnight train to Samara
2) Been swimming in the Volga River and chilled on the beaches that run along its banks.
3) Watched England destroy Sweden and qualify for the Semi Finals
4) Booked a train to and accomodation in Moscow from Wednesday morning until the end of the competition.
5) Sat at Stalin’s desk in his secondary war bunker which was in Samara.
This is the first tournament I’ve been to where England have got this far…its virgin territory for me but one I’m loving every minute. One very minor negative point from it though is that its narrows down the amount of time I have left after the competition to explore the rest of Russia due to visa time constraints…I will need to plan my time and trains are going to be the only option to see what I want to see..
Am I bothered?????.........Niet
PPS… now back in Moscow and its Semi final day…..I’m so tired!!