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From Chennai to Russia, these fans enjoyed the experience of a lifetime
That’s what several Chennaiites have managed to enjoy in Russia, smartly planning their vacations well in advance.
It’s been an exhilarating month for footballing fans across the globe, as the FIFA World Cup in Russia has exceeded expectations with plenty of drama, upsets and outstanding performances that have made for thrilling viewing. Audiences watching the matches at home have been thoroughly entertained, but imagine being a part of the experience at the stadium, mere feet away from the live action?
That’s what several Chennaiites have managed to enjoy in Russia, smartly planning their vacations well in advance. With general consensus among footballers, journalists and fans that this was the best-organised World Cup in the last few decades, this Russian odyssey will certainly rank high among tourists’ memories.
Aarati Ghanashyam, Director of Marketing for Tekplay Systems in the city planned the trip with her college batchmates as a nostalgic reunion trip. “It has been so amazing, that we want to do this every WC. Qatar ’22 is next in line! The best match was the England-Croatia game, which was incredible for its energy,” she says.
In between the matches, she even managed to watch a Guns N’ Roses concert at Moscow. “At Saint Petersburg, we loved the Fabergé museum and the iconic Church of our Saviour on Spilled Blood as well. Everything has been well-organised with many volunteers to help. Russians are very welcoming, but very few of them speak English. Google Translate rescued us quite a few times,” quips Aarati, who lists Luka Modric and Cristiano Ronaldo as her favourite players.
Some others like violinist Shravan Sridhar, a hardcore AC Milan fan, seized the opportunity to travel, when he found out a friend who’d already booked a ticket was backing out. “It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, and I immediately booked my flight. Too many memories have happened on this trip, but the France vs Belgium match I watched at St Petersburg will definitely be etched in my mind for ever. So far, I’ve visited three cities here: Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi. A whole ton of cathedrals, palaces and mountains have been stared at in complete awe!” he tells us.
Shravan adds, “Courtois and Kante are my favourite players from the WC but watching Mbappe set the right wing on fire live is something I’ll never forget.”
For stand-up comedian Aravind Subramanian, who’s been sharing all his experiences live on Instagram, it’s all been about getting into the Russian spirit and watching the fans rejoice all over the country. “I don’t have any allegiances, so I’ve been loving the atmosphere and celebrating with the Russian fans as their team did so well. Since I’ve been posting constantly about my trip, I keep running into other Chennaiites who are at the WC and wanted to catch up. The more the merrier!”
He concludes that the biggest takeaway for most Indians has been the change in perception of Russia as a country. “They have all been so warm and the hospitability has been fantastic; it’s been a successful face-lift for the whole nation.”