I got it all so wrong

Alison Bender   Football  

I read a tweet the other day that made me smile. If you are ever feeling sad, just remember, the world is four point five billion years old and somehow you managed to exist at the same time as the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It’s silly, but it’s true, and somehow I managed to be AT the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and what a tournament it’s turning out to be.

Last night I watched in stunned silence as Russia knocked out Spain on penalties, it wasn’t a pretty game, but all credit to Russia, they did what they needed to do.

That’s the latest in a whole string of shocks that’s seen Germany, Argentina and Portugal all packing their bags, AND England are still in it.

Russian TV was a joy to watch. They threw live to every correspondent they could get in front of a camera, and most of them didn’t seem to know they were on air for a good 20 seconds, it was raw, pure joy and it was great to watch.

As I jumped in my car to head off to work the streets were filled with smiles, flags, high fives, honking cars, and distracted drivers (the last thing I wanted to see, driving over here is questionable at the best of times) this tournament had come to life.

Cut back to a conversation I was having with myself a few weeks ago. Should I go to Russia? I’d read the security briefings, I’d analysed the threats. This is not adding up to the experience I am having right now. Russia is beautiful, clean, exciting and friendly. How wrong could I be?

A lot of it is my fault. I’d been here on that fateful day in 2008 when Chelsea lost the Champions League final on penalties. That grey, drab, rainy, depressing night has stuck as an indelible image. I’m so pleased I have had the opportunity to update it.

I have been here 3 weeks now and I’m having the time of my life. Day one I felt uneasy, I arrived with no Russian, no money and no sense of direction. My Russian SIM didn’t work in my phone and I’d been warned about walking on my own, but I was hungry, and decided I needed to venture out to find some essentials.

The weather was odd, it was very humid with occasional thunderstorms, and the streets were empty as it was a public holiday. There was a strange pollen blowing around which added to the weird uneasy feeling inside of me. I walked up and down the canal looking for street names but they all said the same thing, in Russian characters, not what I had been told to look for. I finally got directions from a fisherman (who I passed three times before I plucked up the courage to talk to him).

I managed to buy myself a sandwich with a salmon and egg filling, even though I thought it was cheese and tomato, but hey, I had found food. I am a hunter, gatherer, sort of!

Three weeks later I’m running around this City like it’s home, I can say a few pleasantries in Russian, I can successfully take the metro and the tram and I can even find proper food for myself. Things are looking up.

I want to end this little blog with a message to England fans. Please come to Moscow, you’ll be so surprised. There aren’t enough England fans here and the ones I have met left their shirts and flags at home. Come. Be proud, we might just do something special. Remember those 4.5 billion years, we’ve only won the World Cup once. So far…

Alison x