After the whole Mariana episode, I get on my train to Moscow. I put down the cycle in the luggage compartment and I am comfortably sleeping for hours in the train. I had two moms and 3 kids for company. Every station the train stops, everyone goes out. You think the entire train is emptying itself, but then 200 cigarets are lit in unison to signal the coming of the nicotine spring. Then they all come back. Those mom’s even though they didn’t speak a word of English was genuinely concerned about my well being. They offered me water, food and even helped me get my linens and stuff. Russians are my favourite people in the world right now. Absolute babes they are.
Now, I was on the phone texting Julia. She was kind enough to let me stay in her place again. I would be coming at like 3 am in the morning and I said to her that I will chill in the station till the metro starts and then I will come down to her place. She was like, no, that is not right. I will come down to the station in a cab and pick you up. I said NOOOOOO. It would be too much trouble and you have a meeting tomorrow. Please don’t let me fuck it up for you. But one thing about Julia. She is a determined bird. So if she wants something, ( like helping this stupid guy) she would get it. I reluctantly obliged and then finally I went to like 13 hours sleep straight after that. I woke up, or more like got pocked by the conductor who, going against the trend, was a dude. So, I meet up with Julia, get on the cab and am soon at her apartment. I ask her to sleep ASAP as she needs to get up for work tomorrow. I told her I’d wake her up at 6 tomorrow.
Which I did ( She said she wanted to kill me for that :p). Then I went back to sleep, woke up, did some cloths and then ate some stuff and was all ready for my penultimate group stage game.
FRANCE vs DENMARK at the LUZINIKI Stadium
But before that I had to make a stopover at the epicentre of the Decathlon operations in Russia.
I had to handover the keys to Julia and also get a pump for my cycle. Here Decathlon employees get a bus coupon that takes them to their place. Its insane. And finally I see the store. A behemoth of a structure on the Northern outskirts of the city. Its huge, even bigger than Kalamaserry and it is more like a chill space than a sports store. There is this cafe like set-ups where people just come to chill or do work and inside, when you see the range of products that are there. I was dumbfounded. There are a few brands for winter sports which I haven’t even heard of before. Its out of this world. It took some pictures of things which I thought was interesting and could be used in our store in Teynampet and send them to my coach. After that I met Julia and handed over the keys to her. I called up Andrei and he came up, he was genuinely happy to see me. He was such a muthwe( babe) and he showed me around the entire store. The place where the brand does it works and introduced me to the country leaders of hiking and trekking, my sports. I felt so much out of place. Cause if this was India, I wouldn’t even get a coffee cause thats how low on the hierarchy I am in the company. Here, I am give a personal tour on everything that goes all around. Before entering a room, I am like- “ Andrei, you sure I can come in here?”
It was something else really. Then Andrei made me coffee and I even met an Indian dude there. Showreya, He worked in Delhi and then he came to Russia. ( Decathlon can take you places). After that I peaced out to the game.
I was really excited for this game. Before I followed my heart and decided to follow Argentina( Thank you Juds for that :p), I have been following France since the Euros. They have a hunger this time round after losing the final and I know they will be in the finals for sure. But first they would have to beat Denmark.
So as usual, the metro journey to the Luzniki and again, the underdog fans turn the place upside down. I got into a compartment with drunk Danes all around and I am reveling in the chants and booze laden dance. The scenes reminded me of the Mexico game.
Outside the scenes were colourful. It was a lot of Danes and small pockets of French people. The Danes had got their shit together. They been chanting all the way and had crazy props and a balloon train that was almost a 100 feet.
Their birds were fit and their booze were a hit, even though their team was shit :p.
The French were also in the mood, a lot of Zizou shirts combined with a lot of Pogba united kits made me wanna fall into the side of Les Blues.
There were a few Napolean hats too. (Bout time he arrived in Moscow.)
I make my way into my seat and next to me was a lone Dane and a lot of Brazillians to my left. Then we wait for the kickoff. In terms of atmosphere this was the tamest so far, from my experience. If there are no Latin Americans, you cant get the party going. This was the best example of it.
Then came the heart break. When the lineup came out, you could see exactly what France was doing. They were resting the best players. Pogba, Mbappe, Lloris or Umtiti. France were group toppers and didn’t have any incentive to play to win. Same for the Danes. A draw would be enough to get through, so they also didn’t perform at their best. The game was the most boring of the tournament and I kind of regretted getting this fixture. But at least I saw Kasper Schmichel and Erickson live, proper premier league players.
The game was so tame until Mbappe came on and then some life came into it. But overall it was a drab affair and from the 85th minute, fans collectively started booing both the teams for playing like twats. This is half my month’s salary for 90 minutes, at least fucking try to score.
When this game ended, I walked out and found a big dude with an India flag. It was a dude from Bangalore and he made me chant Sachin Sachin. Which being a KBFC fan is something we are not proud of ( With all due respects to the great athlete that is Sachin Tendulkar) cause all our rivals give us the piss over that. Now there is two Indians singing “ Sachin Sachin” in the Moscow metro. I was like Saaa..yaah. Then two more Gults guys joined us and I proposed we sing “ Hum Honge Kamayab “ (Thank you Bhavans :p)cause at least it means something than repeating the name of a cricketer no one outside the 12 cricket playing countries would have heard of. And so we did. ( 2026, mark the date boys, India is going to the World Cup )
Now it was getting late, I had to get to the airport before 1 to catch my flight to Kaliningrad. When there Is a deadline, time just goes on nitro and hours feel like a forgetful wank you have before bed. But I had to get something for Julia. She was one bird who actually enjoyed football. Every time we were there it was either the game or the highlights which was on the telly. So we gotta a proper footie girl here and she deserve something to do with the game. ( The last paragraph is a direct consequence of spending too much time with England fans) So I decided to get her a Russia scarf from the FIFA FAN STORE. It was the last one in stock and I was lucky to get that. Then I make my way back to her place. ( I had forgotten my credit card at Decathlon and lucky for me, Andrey found it and gave t to Julia, I am such an irresponsible bellend )Did the last bit of packing and had these delicious dumplings Julia made for me. ( She didn’t call it dumplings, but something else). I gave her the scarf and told her that I believed Russia could beat Spain and make it to the quarters. She didn’t. But I told her to hold it on for good luck. She realised that the thing I ate the most in her kitchen was the cashew nuts and she gave me the whole packet. She just knows doesn’t she. She is like a mom. She would be a great mom. She was flying off to France in early July and I don’t know if I would see her again, but I would love to just hang out. We high fived goodbye and I made my way out.
By now it was sometime around 9 30 and the last train to the airport was at 12. If I miss that I was fucked. I had to change two metros and most fucked up part was carrying the cycle all the way to the metro station, it was easily 1 km from the apartment and carrying the cycle on my shoulders with the clock running against it was too much of a risk. If I miss my fight I am capital FUCKED. I put up so much money into flying to Kaliningrad, which is not even in Russia. It is a small oblast of an island stuck between Poland and Belarus. I had to make a call.
And making calls is something which I am good at. Decisions which can alter a lot of things which you planned and have repercussions in the future. (Like taking science after 10th :p, worstu decision ever). I can either struggle on with the cycle and increase the chances of missing my flight OR I can keep my cycle in Moscow and jeopardise the plans of going cycling with Amar in Murmansk. When the thought of jettisoning my cycle came across my mind, I was like, you son of a bitch, how can you even think like that. 1 minute later having dragged 17 kg on one shoulder, I decided it was time to make a hard call. I messaged Amar what I was doing, he wasn’t online then. I went with my gut and started assembling the cycle. I locked it into a fence inside Julia’s apartment complex. It was hard that, but sometimes desperate times takes desperate measures.
Now, I can move again, I ran towards the stations and got back just in time to board the aero- express train to the airport. It was the last train and I got in just by the skin of my teeth.
(15 mins). At the airport I reached at 12 35. The flight was at 1 30. So I had to get my boarding and all sorted. Fuck all, I had to pay an extra 2k cause my luggage was over-weight. Fuck it. Do I have a choice. Then somehow, I got to my gate as it was boarding. A 10 minutes delay wold have made things go anal. Now I am on that flight to Kaliningrad. Middle seats. Fuck.
I get these early morning, the cops search all my documents and I go to sleep in the airport. I had travelled one time zone to Kaliningrad. I was in the land of Kant. ( For people who don’t know, he’s a cunt)
To be continued….