We’re here for a good time, not a long time.
It’s fair to say Volgograd isn’t exactly top of the list when it comes to travelling bucket lists.
But as a few thousand England fans descend on this southern Russian city, it’s clear they’re here for two things – an England win and a bit of a laugh.
“Every Russian person I’ve met since I arrived have been marvellous,” says Terry, who is instantly recognisable due to his distinctive England flag hairstyle – a personal tradition dating back to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
He continues: “They’re doing all they can to help us, and so far it’s been fantastic.”
Of course much has been said and written about England fans and potential danger they may face across the country, but for those who have braved the trip, the greatest threat so far has been sunburn from the 28 degree heat.
“You can tell people feel slightly cautious as you look round and see fans of every other country wearing their shirts, or comedy sombreros, whilst England fans are being slightly more incognito,” says Gillingham fan James.
“I think that’s slowly changing though – we all feel welcomed and are having a great time.
“I live for these big tournaments and just want my Nan and Grandad not to worry about me!”
The locals are certainly playing their part, knowing that come Monday night the eyes of the footballing world will be on their city.
“We’re so pleased that you have come to our city,” shouts Konstantin, as the Franz Ferdinand classic Take Me Out blares through the speakers inside the Harat’s Pub on Saturday night.
“It is so cool, and we all want the fans to have a great time while they’re here,” he adds.
Volgograd is the poorest of the World Cup host cities, and in some areas it shows.
There’s no grand Metro stations like Moscow – instead a rattling two-coach tram shuttles people around the city.
But this does have a plus side – you can get a beer in a local pub for just over a pound, that is, until they suspiciously charge more a hour later to get another round in, as we experienced in one place.
A decent meal of Borsch (Russian beetroot soup) and a drink will come to a fiver, and a 15 minute taxi ride costs less than two quid.
All this has created an ideal environment for England fans to come and enjoy themselves.
“Some members of my family were pleading me not to come, because they’d seen all the stuff being said before the tournament,” says Nigel, an England abroad veteran.
“But it’s been absolutely fantastic – you just have to look around, there’s people from different countries dancing with each other, and obviously here to have a good time and enjoy the football.
“This is the sort of thing the world needs to see from fans,” he adds.
The whole vibe of England fans in Volgograd has been overwhelmingly positive so far – and you suspect authorities will want it to continue in this way until the fans jet off on Tuesday.
“I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by Volgograd – the weather’s glorious, the beer is cheap and we’ve been warmly welcomed,” says Alex, who made a 28-hour trip from Leeds via Luton, Varna in Bulgaria and Moscow.
“There’s a great atmosphere, we’re drinking in a bar alongside Tunisians and Russians and have had no problems – honestly, we’re having the time of our lives.”
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