This is the third instalment of the World Cup musings of Monsieur Salut’s Boro-supporting nephew, Andy Falconer, who saves hard-earned money to get to far-off places every four years (he’ll feel lost when England or the UK finally gets to host the tournament again). He wrote it on Saturday, having had to settle for a pub screen in St Petersburg for his first game – the trouncing of Saudi Arabia by Russia – before making his first stadium visit for Iran’s unexpected defeat of Morocco …
The last 30 hours have been superb.
I watched the Russia game in a bar. The locals are loyal fans but aren’t under any illusions about their prospects. More of a Del Amitri “don’t come home too soon” than a “football’s coming home” vibe.
But the mood in the country visibly lifted. And by the time the game ended, the streets were filling with Moroccans and Iranians. With other fans crossing over and Russia celebrating, it was a party in full swing.
If you’ve not been to a sporting event like this I’d highly recommend it.
You often get these transcendent, unifying moments. I wonder, what does it do for the Russian psyche to have so many nations coming here in such positive conditions?
Today [Saturday] followed that emerging pattern. St Petersburg was awash with colour, noise and a great deal of mutual respect. The novelty of the World Cup is perking Russian interest.
Morocco and Iran are well represented here and it’s been an outstanding atmosphere in a stunning stadium for my first game. Did you watch the game?
I joked about this being the glamour tie, and the quality wasn’t great. However, the intensity and passion was so impressive.
It was a compelling contest to watch. Morocco started with skill and pace but Iran disrupted their flow and stayed in the match.
That late, late goal for Iran has left a lot of red-shirted people looking forlorn, but the Iranians might as well have just won the tournament! They are loving tonight!
Spain v Portugal (which I watched at the FanFest) was set to this backdrop. Surrounded by iconic churches and spires my group chatted with people from all over the world while watching Spa v Port. I even bumped into a friend I made in Brazil four years ago.
So as the Moroccans start to cheer up from their shock defeat I’m going to sign off and get some kip. I’m sure the Iranians will still be partying when I get up.
* ps Sheffield FC [Wed or United, Andy, asks the Ed, revealing his ignorance? See Andy’s response below] fans seated next to us in the stadium was fun. Iranians from Airdrie was an extra treat. Wearing a 90s Boro shirt made for lots of puzzled stares. Everyone is curious about each others shirts. And loads of Russians are making a lovely effort to be welcoming.