Last night in Volgograd was the England-Tunisia game at last.
A Russian-Armenian couple, wearing England shirts they’d bought for this occasion, gave me a lift to the ground. They’d driven 500 km from Rostov-on-Don. They were driving back after the game.
I had a seat high and steep above the halfway line in the fresh new stadium.
Tunisia started the game smartly, with nice attacking combinations. When after ten minutes they got the goal they deserved I sat glumly. Which team did you say you support? said my Russian neighbour. I then realised that the team in red was England.
(I wasn’t going to write this.)
I think you won’t be surprised to find that I have nothing intelligent to say about the penalty that was (making it 1-1) and the penalty that wasn’t.
I’d have liked to talk to my neighbour at half time, but music was played so loudly that this was impossible.
In the second half, a drum at the England end pushed the team forward and forward. It felt like it wouldn’t stop until we scored. At first it went ONE two three four ONE two three four, then ONE TWO – ONE TWO – ONE TWO. England seemed to play well, I just wished they would play the ball on quicker. Kane’s second goal, in Fergie time (a old Premier League rule under which the duration of injury time was determined by the time Manchester United needed to score), was logical. 2-1.
(The flies. When the teams came back on for the second half I noticed Sterling wafting his hands around. I could guess why. There are annoying little flies everywhere here in Volgograd, worse near the river where the stadium is. I’ve been trying not to make a fuss about it. I’m amused to discover that the British press has. Harry Kane after the game: “We got told there would be a lot of flies and when we went out for the match it was a lot more than we thought. We all had bug spray on and it was important as some of them went in your eyes, some in your mouth but it is about dealing with what comes your way.”
Outside the stadium they’d closed the street, so we could walk in it and get away easily. Phoning home I found I was hoarse.
It was late and only one bar was open, the Art Café.
It has an arty slogan (Thank God for the heroes of conceptualism). But it still ran out of beer.