The World Cup has come and gone here in Moscow, my home base city since 2007. I was away working in Florida for two years and returned to Moscow a month ahead of FIFA 2018 arriving. As a kid I grew up playing “soccer” in America and was even asked as a teenager to try out for one of the NASL (North American Soccer League) teams, something like trying out to get on their B team and work towards making it in the big leagues. So when I heard FIFA was coming to Russia I was very excited to say the least. Moscow continues to get better and better every year and this time returning after two years away it didn’t disappoint. The new shops, new “green” food stores and cafes, the various cross-fit gyms that have opened, you name the city is becoming more and more friendly for everyone Russian and foreigner alike.
When the World Cup arrived the city, the whole country for that matter, took on a whole new vibe. Moscow became one massive party. It was like being at Disney and seeing all the tourists from all over the world. The cameras and phones clicking, the chanting of national teams’ songs, the flags waving, it was an incredible energy. On any given day, at any time, you would find foreigners walking up to Russians and asking to take pictures, you could see for example the Peruvian team fans being approached by Russians and they would sing and dance with them, play on their drums they had with them. It was a scene unlike any other that I have seen in more than 10 years. Wins by Russia in their first two games you would find Moroccan fans or Colombian fans singing the Russian chants arm in arm with their respective flags draped over their shoulders.
One night down around Kuznetsky Most I noticed a guy with police around him and a taxi. He was a Moroccan guy and lost. Being a typical America, I did the atypical thing and try to approach and help him. Fortunately he spoke some English and as it turned out the taxi driver was asking for a ridiculously high fare to take him to his hotel. A friend of mine Alex Chopov was with me and I asked him to help me with the police and translating. It turns out the police was scolding the taxi driver for his actions and the policeman used the wifi from the taxi to get Uber or something like that to get this fan to his hotel and for one third the price! Police, helping and doing what they could despite the language challenges. It was awesome and there are a lot of those kinds of stories. I was proud to be living in this city, to having Russian friends and to be here in the biggest country in the world, for the biggest sporting event in the world, in the capital city of the host country. It’s almost too tremendous for words. I’m sad its over, but this great city and country goes on. Congratulations to France for winning the World Cup. The Russian National Team may have lost their match but they and the country won the hearts of millions all over the world!