SILENCE. Its powerful.
Silence in anticipation of something which can potentially change how an entire country sees itself is even more powerful. Imagine having the responsibility of an entire nation in your hands, an entire generation who have dared to dream. I wouldn’t want to be in that position. But for two incredible human beings, it is about to change their lives.
The referee blows and then a moment of hesitation as the boot connects with the ball. Its towards his right, his feet placement was perfect, he jumps right and his gloves touch the ball. Its out, its a save, the silence is extinguished with cheers of respite from 10,000 Icelanders and sighs of Spanish swear words. One man has saved the penalty of the best player in the world while at the same time lifting his country to their best achievement yet. While the other has felt the pressure of an entire generation way him down, his shot tame, aim wayward and his head down.
Proper sleep is something which is understated. With it everything feels like usual, you wont notice. Without it. You are doing all activities at 50 % efficiency. You don’t think, you just do random shit. It sucks. It took my some time to realise this and I got a good nights sleep instead of writing at night. ( Hence the delays) So when I woke up, I didn’t feel like shit for the first time in a few days. We were leaving the place and moving to Andrey’s. It was also my first match day. I wanted it to be special and I wanted to be fully rested. So I put on my Argentina kit and practised – “ Cada de tero Mas “ with two Argentine mates we were sharing the room with. They also handed me a world cup trophy and asked me to take a picture with it.
After that it was time to move, we packed up everything into the Tribans and we left for Kursyaka metro station. You have to be very careful when you are cycling with a load. Our breaks were at their limits and we careful got to Kurskaya where we dismantled the Tribans and put them in their bag. Its really cool to watch. Give the video a look.
THIS IS HOW WE CARRY THE STALLIONS
Then comes the hard part of carrying it on our shoulders. I am pretty sure my collar bone is gonna have an issue when I come back, but its worth it. With the tribans we were able to see more of Moscow than anyone thought would be possible and that to for free. A lot fo people had asked me, “ If you are saving up for Russia, why are you buying an expensive cycle now?”
Well A. This is why. B. It is none of your business.
We made it Novry Cheremuschy, that is where Andrey lives. Then we assembled it back again and our aluminium stallions were ready to eat tarmac. But they didn’t need to as Andrey lives right next to the station. Now comes the difficult part. Finding his apartment. I don’t know if there is a bit of socialism involved here, but all buildings look alike. Like identical. He brought me home the day before so that I could learn where it is. Now I am like fuck, its a concrete maze. We went to the wrong apartment and rang the wrong door bell until we finally somehow stumbled upon his place.
There was no one home at that time. He had handed over the key the day before just cause of that. Its very interesting how much he trusts, only thing which brought us together was Decathlon. But Andrey being the really kind human being he has given us unwarranted trust which makes me love him even more. Something which I should try to inculcate more in myself. Cause at some point over the past few years, I lost that feeling that humans are intrinsically good.
Kelambaloski to Spartak
Tickets ( Check), FAN ID ( CHECK), ARGENTINA KIT ( Check), Camera and power bank ( CHECK). The feeling that your entire life has been leading upto this moment (Check).
On the metro you could see the excitement. Moscow was in football fever. In the metro you can see everyone with a kit. Russia’s victory which was not quite expected had turned the local populace into football frenzy junkies. ( Kind of like Kolkata). Everyone was talking about it and I switched lines at Oktoberestreskiya and the metro slowly became influxes with two patterns. The navy blue and white stripes of Argentina and the Icelandic blue ( Okay, I officially coined that term cause they fucking deserve it.) In it I saw kids from both sides stand side by side and watch the France game which was happening live on the TV in the metro. The amount of mutual respect is really inspiring, Spanish and English/Icelandic weren’t relevant. The smiles, he thumbs ups and the general vibe of it all made it seem beautiful. Football had transversed all barriers and two teams which are going to play against each other are sharing a moment of friendship.
I got off at the station And the walk to the Spartak was like a carnival. There were flags an banners and then there were Argentina fans singing all the way. Iceland was quite ( trust me, they were saving up for something). There were stories all over that ground, an Argentine fan club from Japan to a dude who had cycled all the way from Argentina to Russia. I would be lying if I said I didn’t shed a few tears there. This is all of what I wanted, the pains over the last few months was for this, that feeling of belonging, that feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself where you can be 100 % yourself and still be happy. I was at my happy place. A football game. That is my happy place and I haven’t even entered the stadium yet.
I get into the Luzniki. After a series of security checks I am finally inside, as tradition dictates. A football game without beer in Europe is not a football game at all. So I get a beer for 350 rubles ( Which is still cheaper than most retro bars in India).
And I make the walk up the stairs. I don’t know how to describe it. My brain was processing too much emotions at that time to document what happened. I enjoyed the moment. The sound of chants echoing of the roofs, how high the stands are and how much closer I am to the action. In Kochi, its like we are like a mile from the action. Here I can see what colour shoes Messi is wearing. I move towards my seat. I find this Argentina dude sitting there. I ask him hi bro whats up. He said he was a little sick and so he was sitting there. I was completely chill with it and we started talking. He was Santiago from Patagonia. His papa was there with him. I said hi to him too. We sang Cada di term mas and got friendly real fast. His dad bought me a beer.
There is this thing with me where I can become attached and share stories about myself to people I just met which I haven’t done with friends I have known since childhood. Its fucked up, but I don’t know. So Santi being a football fan, it was even easier for me.
Then Iceland came out and the stadium went into a ruckus. The islanders were right under me and I knew what that meant. I got a first row balcony seat for the most iconic fan celebrations in football. The Viking clap.
Then 30 minutes before the start of the second game came Argentina. Gommale. I still couldn’t believe how tall Messi was. The internet had created this pre conceived notion that Messi was this midget who can run through the legs of defenders. Messi is just as tall as any average Indian dude. But fuck man. You just saw the greatest player of your time right in front of you and the only thing you notice is his height. But man, all the players I had played on FIFA and had only seen on the telly were there. Di Maria, Rojo, Siggurdson, Aguero. You can clearly see their faces. It was unbelievable.
It was time for kick-off and the Icelanders made sure their numbers didn’t stop them from being heard. The claps started. It sends a shiver down your spine. Its so powerful that some Argentine players must have felt the same. I was ecstatic. My Argentine mate Santiago made sure I didn’t forget which team I came here to support. The game kicks off and the chants by the Argentines and “ is-land Is-land “ made me feel so overwhelmed that I started to cry. I don’t consider myself to be an emotional person. But when it comes to football, I will bite your head off and might even cry like my tear glands are the Mullaperiyer dam ready to burst. Its like how I said it, its my happy place and tears of happiness are part of the package.( That video is pay per view :p, if you wanna see me cry, you gotta pay a premium)
The first goal came to the post we were sitting behind. Aguero gets the ball takes it side and shoots. It rained beer. Shit, I was hugging random Argentines. It was getting insane. The fans rocked the ground. ( Not to the level of Kochi though.). But the cries of is-land, is-land still didn’t diminish after this. And not to long later Iceland equalised. We were shocked and it was the turn of one quarter of the stadium to make the noise. And at one point the Iceland chants were drowning the Spanish chants in them. I still don’t know how but Iceland fans have this special power to them. I strongly recommend you read this .
After watch the game my respect for the fans, players and the county increased 10 fold. After reading that article, I cried. Like cried.
Watch this video directed by Icelands goalkeeper. The guy who is about to save a Leo Messi penalty.
I still don’t remember how Argentina won it, but when Messi stepped up, we thought that the game was put to bed. And when Messi hit it to his left and when he saved it, the scenes were incredible. The Argentines still couldn’t believe what is happening. And the Icelanders celebrated more like it was a 90 minute header than a save. The second half from a football perspective was boring, but the fans made it epic. I shared some power from the power bank and my friends dad bought me another beer. Spanish speaking people are the most generous in the world :p.
Then the game came to an end and we left. Icelanders had an extra spring in their step. They kept Lio Messi quite and also saved a pen. It was epic. And my dream of watching a World Cup game came true. This was it. Months of work came down to this 90 minutes which I am going to remember forever. That feeling. That feeling that you get when you feel like you earned it. That can’t be bought.
Its the price you pay for making dreams come true.