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...