FIFA World Cup 2018: For this British journalist, Russia is one freewheeling road show
Andrew Flint, a British football journalist, based in Tyumen, Siberia, left home in his car on the opening day of FIFA World Cup, June 14, eager to travel to all 11 host cities by road.Updated: Jul 08, 2018 21:46 IST
Hindustan Times, Nizhny Novgorod
For Andrew Flint, the lasting memory of this FIFA World Cup is likely going to be the roads of Russia.
The British football journalist, based in Tyumen, Siberia, left home in his car on the opening day of the tournament, June 14, eager to travel to all 11 host cities by road.
It has been a journey often filled with sleepless nights but 23 days down the, well, road, during which he has chewed up 11,000km on road, he is now approaching the final stages of his World Cup sojourn. Only 4,000km to go before he is back home in Tyumen, he said.
“I have slept in a proper bed for six nights out of 22 so far - the rest have simply been in the front seat of my car, reclined, finding the quietest petrol station possible. Needless to say, it has been a challenge to catch a full night’s sleep. As for food, it has varied between internet cafes and the cheapest bagels with a cup of coffee, and petrol station sandwiches. Very occasionally, I treat myself to a full, proper meal,” he said.
Flint has been to 10 of the 11 host cities so far and will complete the set of 11 when he reaches Saint Petersburg on July 9, a day ahead of the first semi-final.
“The truth is somewhere between enjoyable reflection, peace and quiet and incredibly lonely stretches where I can’t bear another metre of featureless countryside. There have been some spectacular drives - Krasnodar to Sochi stands out for its stunning, winding seaside mountain road; so there have been pleasant aesthetic treats to offset the solitude,” he said.
Currently in Nizhny Novgorod for the quarter-final between France and Uruguay, Flint said one of the major hurdles during his journey has been border crossings.
“I totally underestimated the time border crossings take in a car. Russia into Latvia took four hours, while I was turned away at the Russia-Belarus border. I won’t be trying an EU border crossing again,” he said.
The intense travelling has meant that Flint has had to miss out on quite a few games but that hasn’t hampered his unconventional coverage of the tournament for British football portal Ronnie Dog Media.
Flint watched the Russia-Spain game live on his mobile phone while being stuck in a nine-hour traffic jam.
While Flint has found the odd co-traveller in between, a vast majority of the journey has been undertaken alone.
In the midst of it all, he has met a few interesting characters. “My favourite person so far was Alejandro Maldonado, a Mexican man who had played for Hendon in England’s Isthmian League in the 1970s. We had a kick-about outside Rostov Arena during Saudi Arabia vs Uruguay.”
So will he undertake a similar journey in future World Cups? “I would never do this again, but I am so glad I did it this time. The one regret I have is that I haven’t had enough time to stop and truly appreciate each place in full. I have now seen more of the country than most native Russians though, and my love for this country has grown even more,” he said.
First Published: Jul 08, 2018 16:35 IST