Limbs everywhere. It’s coming home. #Scenes.
Usually picking up three points in a World Cup opener is enough for most fans, but for those of us lucky enough to witness it inside the Volgograd Arena on Monday night, there was so much more to enjoy than just that header.
The new anthem of the England fans in Russia is now officially a thing – with fans singing about coming to Russia, drinking vodka, and going all the way constantly throughout, and for about half an hour after the final whistle.
So infectious was the atmosphere amongst the 2,000 or so England fans that a few hundred Russians joined in, as stewards shepherded out the fans into a quasi-congo out of the Arena.
Not even bugs could ruin this night. There were fears that swarms of midges might affect the game, but even in the stands it was fans one, flies nil, as I picked out a couple that had met their demise in my pint of Budweiser.
Even the Budweiser, Budweiser, tasted nice, that’s how good this night was. Of course, the stadium beer is helped out here by being served in gimmicky flashing cups that light up when you pull a plastic tab at the bottom.
On the pitch there were huge positives to take from the game, naturally.
But off the pitch there were just as many.
There was the immensely talented Manchester City starlet Phil Foden in the stands, taking pictures and soaking up the atmosphere pre-match. Who’s to say he won’t be out there on the pitch in four years’ time?
He was sat near the Maguire family, all donning shirts with the surname of the Sheffield Maldini, watching their boy do his country proud.
Then there were the England fans, fantastically mugging off every Mexican Wave that dared come their way. Nah, we don’t do that here, nor anywhere, thank you very much.
As well as the lads did the business on the pitch, the fans who braved the trip to Southern Russia also proved what they were about this tournament.
They were loud, passionate, and simply here to have a good time. There were also plenty who squeezed in a trip to the incredible ‘Motherland Calls’ statue before the match, as the England squad had done earlier in the day to pay their respects to those who died in the bloody Battle of Stalingrad in World War Two.
Then came Harry Kane’s goal. What a moment to savour. Pure bedlam, adulation and ecstasy.
The final whistle blows but the fans aren’t going anywhere. The players come to applaud the travelling support, while Gareth Southgate cheerleads passionately from the front.
The party has really only just started, and while the five kilometre walk back towards to the centre of Volgograd drags, it’s an ideal time for fans to bask in the glory and offer their considered punditry – should Sterling start the next game? Rose in for Young? Did Tunisia really think rugby tackles in the box is a viable tactic?
Finally, to the Harat’s Irish bar (where else?). The pub has become a bit of a headquarters for a small number of England fans in recent days, so where better to round off leg one of this adventure?
Pleasingly, the mood is upbeat, and the jubilant Three Lions fans are mixing it with the devastated Tunisians. Hugs and handshakes are exchanged, and what could have been a nervy weekend all round ends in mutual respect.
It’s 2 a.m. by the time our taxi driver hurtles us home, going so fast he even overtakes a sirens-blaring police car. Every taxi trip here is an experience, and not necessarily always positive.
What remains is two hours sleep, before a 4 a.m. alarm to catch the plane back to Moscow. Sleep can wait – Harry Kane scored a last minute winner and football’s coming home, lads. For now, at least.
- We spoke to Masturbinho, the man behind the most legendary shirt in football
- Welcome to Volgograd, where England fans just want to have fun
- Peru are absolutely taking over Russia and everyone’s loving it
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