Having read Red Notice and Red Sparrow, akin to reading “The People’s History of the United States”, I felt I was up to speed on Russian history and culture and ready to embark on my first trip into the Motherland. This article on Russian hooliganism also helped get acquainted with the culture… http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/23659183/world-cup-2018-russia-new-school-hooligan-culture
Following my immersion into Russian culture, I felt I needed a little soccer history, and US soccer history, as this event was bereft of our participation. This podcast https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/american-fiasco/id1389231303?mt=2&i=1000412960034 as an excellent start, even if it led me to this video of our 1990 team. https://youtu.be/fzLtF_PxbYw
The group for this year’s Cup consists of 7 holdovers from our trip from Brazil and one that went to both Brazil and South Africa with me, Chris Wode. Chris’ wife is en route tomorrow with their unborn soccer fan in tow. One participant, a holdover from Brazil and a frequent world traveler, misplaced his passport yesterday and was at the US Consulate all day trying to get a new one. He missed our flight and as of this posting, we are unsure if he is joining…
Speaking of our flight, it is an 11:40 minute direct flight on Aeroflot. So far, my initial perception is that the Russian language is impossible to understand, the service is good , the food above average and the flight attendants are superficially nice but have little patience. Maybe not so different than United or American…resting bitch face seems to be an obligatory requirement for hire.
The current itinerary is to land in Moscow on the 14th, the start of the tournament. Our first day will be to get acquainted in Moscow and head to the FanFest to take in the Spain/Portugal game.
Day 2 is is our first game: Messi’s Argentina vs. the tournament darling, Iceland. The size of Anaheim, Iceland is making its tournament debut following their surprise showing at the 2016 European Championship. This game, aside from the Final, is the only game that sold out during the pre-tournament ticket phase. To learn more about Iceland’s improbable run and team, check this out.
My first foray into foreign World Cups, South Africa, was comprised of both games and local tourism. Argentina vs South Korea one day, a great white shark dive the next. Germany vs. Australia one day, a safari the next two. Lion Park during the day…and Cameroon vs. Denmark at night. US vs. Slovenia was the highlight with a late tie for the US in historic Ellis Park, a famous rugby ground.
Brazil was not as nuanced…drink at the beach during the day…game the next.Rinse and repeat. Salvador and Rio were great host cities and offered insight into a quaint beach area and slave entry into South America in Salvador, and then the bustling Rio as a counterbalance.
Russia is using 11 host cities for the tournament and our tour will be covered in two host cities: Moscow and St. Petersburg. Following the aforementioned Argentina game, we will cap off our Moscow stay with Germany vs. Mexico. Coincidentally, this is our third Cup in a row with Germany. It is a coincidence, because we book our cities and buy our tickets before we know which teams are playing.
On Monday, we take a ‘high speed’ train from Moscow to St. Petersburg for the next pair of games: host country Russia vs. Mo Salah’s Egypt and the last match of our trip on Friday: Neymar’s Brazil vs. our region’s runner-up, Costa Rica.
We have two more days in St. Pete before heading back to Moscow on an early flight and then home and begin prepping for Qatar…