The Stadium sleeps

Amol Gokhale
Monday, 16 July 2018

The silence and a little bit of smoke that lingered in the air post-fireworks covered the lush green outfield of the Luzhniki Stadium. The nets of the goalpost were already gone, the confetti was scattered around the park and security personnel were cordoning the dugouts area. Some men worked behind the scenes, even three and half hours, after the 2018 FIFA World Cup final was over.

The silence and a little bit of smoke that lingered in the air post-fireworks covered the lush green outfield of the Luzhniki Stadium. The nets of the goalpost were already gone, the confetti was scattered around the park and security personnel were cordoning the dugouts area. Some men worked behind the scenes, even three and half hours, after the 2018 FIFA World Cup final was over.

On any other day, I was not allowed to enter the small passage that leads you out on the playfield, behind the goal posts. But on Sunday, nobody looked for my accreditation in that 20 ft long passage post the match. I was allowed inside with the usual warning, ‘Stay off the grass’.

As I stood there, on the edge of the field, observing this beautiful stadium, I could feel the void that was going to occupy my mind very soon. I could of course do nothing about it. It was all over, as if in a flash. The 2018 FIFA World Cup was over, I was no longer going to come back to this stadium.

About the game, the football of the very highest quality was expected with the stars who were going to grace the field on Sunday evening, but no one would have expected a six-goal thriller. Luzhniki, packed to the rafters, saw fans singing songs while chants of ‘Spasibo Russia’ (Thank you, Russia) and ‘Allez Les Bleus’ echoed through the stadium when France lifted the World Cup after 20 years. 

What I would call the cherry on the top was that I almost got drenched with water, champagne and beer as French players barged into the press conference of their coach Didier Deschamps, showering him for the third time, singing C’est pas fini.. (It’s not over yet).

At half-past midnight, after saying my final goodbyes to the media colleagues and volunteers, I left the stadium. Almost everyone had left and I could see that trucks with water jets fitted in front had already started cleaning the roads. 

The statue of Lenin stood tall in front of the fully lit Luzhniki stadium, waiting for lights to go off, so that he and the stadium could sleep, after witnessing the footballing extravaganza for an entire month.  ‘Au revoir’, I said to both.

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