Amol Gokhale shares his travel and tour experiences, and also catches the fun and revelry during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
In the film How To Train Your Dragon, King Odin asks his son, Hiccup, to be careful and the kid replies, “(Flirting with danger) It’s an occupational hazard…”
I came to terms with the hazards of my occupation on Sunday night, in a rather hard way.
It was after the Russia-Spain match. Andres Iniesta is one of my favourite players and as Spain exited the tournament, this Barcelona legend called time on his international career. I felt extremely privileged to see this great man in action for one last time.
The 4-3 win over Spain sent Russia into a frenzy. I am sure the celebrations went on till Monday morning, with Moscow being worried that they would run out of beer that night. Elena called me a couple of times asking me to join her in the festivities but since I was packing my bags before heading to St Petersburg, I couldn’t take her offer.
The atmosphere on the Metro back to my hostel was all charged up. Fans had turned the car into a percussion instrument, banging its walls and singing songs of Russian victory, and chanting ‘Russia Russia.’
A few select Metros also screen the games and one of those pulled the crowd together. I found myself in the company of a German man supporting Russia (because his wife is Russian), a Brazilian living in Stockholm, his Colombian friend and an old Russian chap. We all spoke one language — the language of football. As cliched as it sounds, there was pure passion about the game, as we shared the 20-minute ride back home, embracing each other. We had been brought together by the beautiful game.
I took the Metro again at midnight to head to the railway station and the Metro was now even more crowded and crazy. People were celebrating, rather Russia was celebrating; people hugged each other, sang together and generally made merry.
Probably my Journalist accreditation impressed one of the girls from a bunch of Russians who were headed for the Red Square. She urged me to join them and take a later train to St Petersburg. Alas, I had to decline the offer.
And then I realised what an occupational hazard means...