FIFA World Cup 2018: After festival, normal life resumes in Russia

Updated on Jul 15, 2018 11:08 PM IST

Wistful recollection for Russian fans after a celebration of the FIFA World Cup 2018.

The FIFA World Cup 2018 will come to a close following the France vs Croatia final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday.(Reuters)
The FIFA World Cup 2018 will come to a close following the France vs Croatia final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday.(Reuters)
Hindustan Times, Moscow | ByBhargab Sarmah

Okhotny Ryad was bustling as the sun went down on Saturday. It was penultimate night of the nearly five-week long football carnival that had brought together fans from the farthest corners of the world to Russia in general and Moscow in particular. And many were headed for Red Square through Okhotny Ryad which links it to the nearest Metro station.

The crowd though was less than the one in the first weekend of the tournament. Spread on all sides of the Kremlin, the city centre has been, and still is, the meeting point for different sets of fans before, during and after games.

READ | Vladimir Putin passes torch to Qatar for FIFA World Cup 2022

That gave it the status of being the most popular party zone of the World Cup. This weekend, the Croatian shirts were the most prominent outfits seen among the city centre crowd.

Croatian flags and banners, many containing the phrase ‘budi ponosan’ -- meaning ‘be proud’ --- were visible throughout the busy streets.

There were still a lot of Russians though with many of them carrying cameras, capturing videos, photos of a sing-off between French and Croatian fans or the banner unfurled by Colombian fans which read ‘Spasiba, Russia’ (Thank you, Russia) outside a local pub.

Most Russians have been bedazzled by the spectacle that unfolded over the past five weeks to which was added the euphoria of Russia’s quarter-final run.

“I am sad that it’s coming to end. We have met so many people from so many cultures; it has been a beautiful experience for all of us. It’s the best festival we have ever hosted,” said Mariya, a manager at a local café.

“We have forgotten all our problems for a while. Once it ends, normal life resumes on Monday. But the last month has been great for us. The football team has turned everyone mad for the sport,” said Alexander, a local fan.

READ | France and Croatia name unchanged sides for FIFA World Cup 2018 final

On Sunday, a steady stream of fans of France and Croatia made their way into the main complex of the Luzhniki Stadium some five hours before kick-off. There were a few Argentines and Brazilians as well but Croatians remained most prominent.

“This is our biggest ever match. We have had lot of problems in football in our country but our national team has continued to do well. We are really proud of them,” said Borna from Zagreb.

With Russian president Vladimir Putin hosting state-heads of France and Croatia, as well as a number of famous names from and outside football in attendance, police presence was visibly higher in the roads leading to the Luzhniki Stadium than on previous match days.

French football fans, visibly lesser in number than Croatian fans until this point, started making their way to the complex.

READ | France and Croatia seek FIFA World Cup 2018 glory

A group of them chanted ‘Allez! Allez! Allez!’ as a local TV reporter approached them. The chant was picked by other French fans nearby. Croatian fans responded with one of their own.

A brief spell of afternoon showers didn’t dampen their spirit. It wouldn’t for this was football’s biggest evening, one that comes once in four years.

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