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I went to watch England and ended up at an all-night street party with Floyd Mayweather’s ex

As England roll into town expectant of three points against Panama, off the field the fans are enjoying the World Cup in all its fullness

It’s 4.30am in Nizhny Novgorod, but the party hasn’t finished yet.

The football fans who have descended on the Russian city to see England take on Panama on Sunday lunchtime are experiencing the World Cup, and one of its host city, in all its fullness.

The sun has already risen, in fact it did two hours ago, but as I make my way from the popular Maxim Gorky strip in central Nizhny to the waterfront, it’s obvious daylight hours are being disregarded by everyone who have made the trip.

If it’s light, night doesn’t exist right?

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If it’s light, night doesn’t exist right?

For Panamanians, that has included 24-hour flights to Russia, not to mention the vast expense at which it comes, whilst the few thousand England fans who have joined the party are solely here for a big sesh – and three points, of course.

Arriving after a five-hour train journey from Moscow which felt barely different than getting a train from London to Newcastle, it’s clear from the off that this place is a hidden gem for World Cup fans.

One taxi offered us tablets strapped to the back of the seats to talk to the driver through a wireless Google Translate system.

The next cab was an Audi A4, driven by a lady in her mid-20s who looked (and drove) like she belonged in a Fast & Furious film.

The first impressions of Nizhny Novgorod were superb.

Could be the Russian countryside, could be Lincolnshire. It’s Russia, though, for the avoidance of doubt

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Could be the Russian countryside, could be Lincolnshire. It’s Russia, though, for the avoidance of doubt

You don’t notice there’s gaps in the market until they’re taken

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You don’t notice there’s gaps in the market until they’re taken

Then comes the party.

England fans, who have at last turned up in their numbers, belt out the classics on the main strip.

They are immediately countered by the Panama fans, who, alongside probably more fans than England, bring their Central American flair to the night, which is slowly becoming day.

They’re here for a good time and they know it – it is, after all, the first time they’ve even experienced a World Cup.

There is a brief stoppage as Panama fans start to draw their phones for selfies with one member of their party.

We soon discover it is Liza Hernandez, a Panamanian Instagram celebrity, who is fairly used to the endless requests of photos after a brief fling a few years back with Floyd Mayweather.

If it wasn’t already obvious, there is a lot to like about Nizhny, and it’s almost a pity the England players won’t get to experience some of the things the fans will.

There’s the coffee shops, sweeping up the passing traffic by showing Germany versus Sweden on a 32-inch TV outside their tiny outlets.

There’s the Black Star Burger joint, whose burgers are so greasy they give you latex gloves to eat them with.

Not sure they’ve made it clear, but they sell beer here too

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Not sure they’ve made it clear, but they sell beer here too

Yes, those really are gloves specially to eat a burger with

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Yes, those really are gloves specially to eat a burger with

Then there’s the surroundings – flanked by the Oka and Volga rivers, Nizhny boasts historic buildings alongside breathtaking views from the banks of the 16th century Kremlin building.

It’s from these banks we start to hear the mother of all street parties. It may be 3am at this point, but the busiest bit of the night/day has just emerged.

England fans and Panamanians join forces as locals take to Nagornyy Pereulok, a street near the Volga riverfront.

Music blaring, drinks raised – aside from the football itself, this is what the World Cup is about.

You would hate to live in one of those flats opposite. But who cares really?

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You would hate to live in one of those flats opposite. But who cares really?

“You there, yeah you, no photos pal”

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“You there, yeah you, no photos pal”

As fans pull off impromptu flossing and congas, urged on by an enthusiastic MC, an incredible dawn breaks over the horizon.

Small crowds move down the street to the riverfront to take in the sunrise, sharing the panorama with the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, where the fans will be in less than 12 hours.

It may only be one night, but the whole thing has had a four-day festival vibe. Football chants, boozed up English lads, late-night incomprehensible dance tunes.

So to round it all off, what better than someone getting their acoustic guitar out for a singsong? That duly follows, thanks to some young local students who have come down to the riverside to soak up this carnival atmosphere.

Fair play Nizhny, that is IMPRESSIVE

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Fair play Nizhny, that is IMPRESSIVE

Go and get the guitar…

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Go and get the guitar…

For the England fans present, anything less than three points will be a failure and a wasted trip.

But in terms of proving what a World Cup host city is capable of for those who who dared to make the journey, Nizhny Novgorod is full of rich rewards for all who enter.