Russia Triumphs Over Spain: A Moscow Experience

fifa 2018 russia

Quite a Rad Sunday:

What a day! I finished Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson, and watched in awe as Russia eliminated Spain from the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Doozy.

I am not Russian. Sports hardly interest me. But as I stood in that pub in the heart of Moscow, some watery IPA in hand, surrounded by chants of ‘Rossiya, Rossiya, Rossiya’, I let myself be swept up in the energy.

Off to See the Magic:

I set out from my flat on the west side of Moscow, picked up a single-serve bottle of wine from the market, and boarded a metro train toward Воробьёвы Горы (Sparrow Hills) with the intent to join the Fan Fest, a massive open area for 25,000 people to watch the World Cup Match streamed live on a giant screen. As I walked up the incline toward it, surrounded by people peddling flags and face paint, I heard a crushing announcement, the Fan Zone had reached capacity. ‘Please head toward Leninsky Prospekt.’ Butts.

Not to be denied my viewing experience, I recalled the dozen or so HDTVs in a two-story pub near the Bolshoy Theater where I had had an interview for a job at a high-class kindergarten on the outskirts of Moscow (yes, an interview over a beer in a British style pub in Moscow). I boarded a bus and arrived at the place at half-time, right as Moscow scored to tie the match. Being in an English pub, I ordered a cider from the frantic bartenders and found an open place to stand and sip my brew.

It was time to dive into the world’s most popular sport.

Heating Up:

I finished my drink right as the referee brought the game to a pause after the 90th minute. I know little about the rules of soccer, but I knew overtime would follow. Russia held on. The people around me clenched their drinks in hand, their eyes alight with anticipation. The Russian keeper blocked another shot on goal, the room, two floors packed wall to wall, erupted. Overtime ended. It would go to penalty kicks. I ordered the aforementioned watery IPA.

I don’t give two flying butts about soccer. My heart was fluttering. Each team scored two penalties a piece. Then Akinfeev saved a shot from Koke. The room exploded. Beers were spilt and the furnishings took a beating as the people around me belted out their approval.

A Country Goes Bonkers:

Aspas stepped up to take his shot. The Spaniard loosed and the ball moved, Akinfeev’s hand made contact. The ball passed by the net. Russia had won.

What followed I’ll remember for years to come. The room gushed. Hugs, cheers, fists in the air. Closed my eyes and it sounded more like a war had been won than a sport match. I grinned and stepped outside, onto the street.

The city was alive. Car horns blazed in all directions, Russian flags waving from the windows. Cheers and cries arose from all directions. Even the police had smiles plastered to their faces. Russian police…beaming like children.

I threw in a cheer of my own before entering the metro to head home. The celebration followed me all the way back to my flat. Cheering on the trains, on the escalators, on the streets.

Will Do Again:

Again, soccer means little to me. But the experience of seeing so many people to whom it means so much, seeing the raw human experience of fandom, witnessing the collective pride of a nation up so close, it was captivating.

I came home and ate some pasta with pesto. And, look forward to attending Russia’s next match.