Russia 2018 - The First 5 days

by Tunna on Jun 20, 2018

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Russia 2018 - The First 5 days

Risdon slides, wins the ball from the feet of Antoine Griezmann but the trailing leg of our right full back catches the bootlaces of the French striker as he falls to ground. Eyes turn to the Uruguayan referee who quickly waves away the appeal of the French players. We all breathe a sigh of relief. Before long though, VAR intercepts and the ref awards the penalty based on vision he’s seen of the incident.
That’s my recollection of those mad few minutes.

By now, everyone has watched the replay over and over, and fierce debate has reigned here as I’m sure it has back home. There isn’t much we can do now but look forward, which is as much as what our skipper said in his presser yesterday. A win is a must against the Danes to leave the door open going into the Peru game. I believe we can do it. If the boys play out of their skins as they did in Kazan, led by Mile and Mooy in the middle again, we’re a definite chance.

VAR has been the most polarising introduction to our game in recent times. Love it or hate it, we can all agree that it’s purpose is to confirm decisions in real time that otherwise may have been missed.

Sometimes however, the system further complicates matters leaving supporters alike scratching their heads. It was created in order to eliminate the subjective. It has failed to do this. It needs to be clear cut, black or white. Get it right someone, please!!!

I don’t know what to say other than they fill the city. They fall from Trees here and can be seen forever flying through the air. Its like nothing I’ve ever seen before and quite unique ot this part of the world.
There’s a tradition at these tournaments that’s sort of commonplace now, but only for those that go and seek it. It’s the swapping of scarves between the sets of supporters. I normally carry anywhere around 5 scarves with me when leaving Australia. It explains part of the reason why I have a suitcase full of them at home. The French however prefer to keep their $3 Made in China piece of cloth and are for the large part unwilling to trade. Instead, I scored a Bars Kazan Ice Hockey Club scarf from a local fan. A nice and unique addition to the collection. Who wants a French scarf anyway!

Moscow Home Base:
The tour by now is in full swing. The welcome function at Apple Hall in Moscow centre was an unbelievable setting. An art gallery combined with the Russian Army choir and the opening match of the Tournament left people in awe of their surroundings. It’s fantastic to see so many people start to develop friendships with one another. It’s the best thing to come out of this time away from home. Everyone is having a ball on this tour, as they are on our ‘Follow Australia’ program. Having had the experience we have at two World Cups before this one, everything is running smoothly which is testament to our program directors who have ensured that every angle is covered. The day tours in between games have been a lot of fun, and the visit to official ‘Fan Fest’ last night reminded everyone of the enormity of this tournament. Being able to mix with fans from all the different countries is amazing.

The Mexicans especially bring a special flavour and took over Moscow the last couple of days, before and after the win against the defending champions, Germany. Speaking to a Mexican family, the Jimenez’s from Oaxaca, who consider themselves to be lower middle class, this for them is their holiday every four years. They put away what they can each week and very rarely take any other holidays in between. The World Cup and following “El Tri”, or Mexican National Football Team, has been and continues to be their window to the world.

Moscow itself is magical. Its sheer scale and grand architecture as far as the eye can see makes it so very beautiful. I didn’t really have any pre conceived ideas of what it would be like. I did my usual research but nothing prepares you for the size of the place. It’s so sparsely spread that it can make it very difficult to move around in a timely fashion. However, once you’ve reached your destination, it makes the effort so very worth it. Red Square has been closed for a week although we did get to St Basil’s. I plan to venture out there again and would like to experience it again before sharing my thoughts about it.

On the Ropes:
I was struggling with jetlag when I arrived and to use a Boxing term, was out for the count in the early evening on those days. I turned to Ilya, our Russian host here in Moscow and used this Boxing analogy and he immediately started to laugh before explaining that I reminded him of a Russian Boxer. It wasn’t too long before word spread to our other Russian hosts and Hotel staff. So, if you turn up here and wonder why some Russians call me “Fedor”, you’ll know why. The good looking bald man in question is Fedor Emelianenko. Look him up. Ironically, his nickname is “The Last Emperor”, so it kind of fits. Roman-Russian!

23 Men amongst 330,000:
I find it astonishing that a country like Iceland were able to muscle their way to a 1-1 draw with Football heavyweight, Argentina. A team which contains arguably one of the potent strike forces in history and best player on the planet. Iceland have a population of 330,000 people. That’s not a typo. Ill say it again, 330,000. It makes it even more astonishing when you pull it apart and actually do the math. For instance, let’s say that half the population are male. Then let’s say 25% of them again are between the ages of 18-35. That leaves just 41,250 people to find 23 elite Footballers to not only qualify for the World Cup, but to then draw against the pedigree of Argentina and claim their first ever point in the tournament. Lets put that into context. 41,250 males between the ages mentioned could be found covering a few suburbs in Melbourne. It’s nothing short of extraordinary.

I really hope the “Strakamir Okkar” kick on and keep creating amazing memories for their people.

That 3.30am wakeup call:
There’s nothing like the sun peering through the curtains at 3.30am! Most would know that in this part of the world, synonymous with ‘white nights’ that the sun never really sets during the evening. Instead, a dark twilight manifests around 10pm and the sun is shining again in the early hours. As someone that’s here for the first time, it’s quite an eye opener, literally!

Ok, I’m off to enjoy the 9.30pm sunshine….Vesem Poka!













That’s the bets opening I can muster at the moment. The level of anticipation