Why Russia is closer than you think

The FIFA world cup is on the top of the list of “things to do before I die” for any football fan on this blue elongated football we call  Earth. I am here to tell you that “the dream” is much  closer to reality than you imagine. I have been planning to go to the world cup for over a year now. I have meticulously planned everything which I think is important at the moment to invade Russia to watch the WC ( And don’t forget your winter cloths kids, learn from Napoleon’s and Hitler’s mistake). And I want to share that knowledge with you, so that you will be inspired to make the trip to Russia and live your dreams the way I want to. Especially if you are Indian. My perspective would be from the stand of a middle class Indian college student who just wants the join the biggest party on the planet.

So, we will get to know each other through the way and if you want to read more I will put links everywhere where I think there is something  relevant or something  funny.

So here are my reasons why you MUST ABSOLUTELY GO TO RUSSIA FOR THE WORLD CUP.

 

 

 

THE CHEAPEST TICKET FROM INDIA TO EUROPE

So let me tell you this. Delhi to Moscow is 5,315KM. Kolkata to Shillong is 640KM.  Now wait to get your mind fucked. The flight from Kolkata to Shillong costs Rs 9,165 as of today. My flight to Moscow from Delhi. Wait. I’l let you see it. Other wise you wont believe it.

 

 

 

 

Yah. My reaction exactly when I saw this. That was the moment when a dream made its first step into being a reality.  So I hope you see how close India is to Russia in terms of flight charges. It cost me just North of 25K INR ($391) for my flight both ways. When I tell most people, they say that its very cheap. Thinking it’s one ways. When I tell them its a two way ticket . That feeling of getting their minds fucked. Worth every paisa.

 

In fact its the cheapest ticket from India to Europe. Lets compare. There is this cool tool called Google Flights(AAA). Where you can put in some parameters like date, destination etc and it will show the cheapest flights on the map. So I put in Moscow and  some other cities in Europe.

 

 

18 K for London. Not bad. ( Only Wenger would bargain over that) 23K for Barcelona. 19K for Amsterdam, (the aviation fuel charges can be put to use in other fumes there). And for good ol Moscow 12K ish. Its the cheapest ticket to Europe from India. PERIOD.

So, I will tell you what the key is. I booked my flight tickets on the 23rd of October(BLACK SUNDAY for all United fans). A good 8 months before the WC. So I got these prices. The price for all those European locations are 8 months ahead of today ( 18 Nov 2017) . So the airline will give you the cheapest ticket possible. Trust me when I say this.

 

How soon you prepare is going to make the difference between how you experience the WC. You will be able to go on a shoe string budget, but still be able to see a lot of matches, visit many cities and stay longer. If you wanna watch it a week before the opening ceremony. Then this is not what you should be reading.

So my total expenditure on flights are as follows.

 

 

 

 

I know right. Fucking hell.

 

Some tips to get the best price on the flight ticket. 

 

Book Fucking Early.

And I mean way early. (The only time coming early is something you can be proud of is now.)Never do prices get lower as the date of departure arrives. The perfect time to book is 60-90 before your flight. Cause if you book too soon, you might miss out on a sale. But since I expect flights to Russia to be in high demand during that period. There is no way I am taking that chance. SO BOOK ASAP.

 

 

Search your flight on multiple search engines.

It’s important to check a few sites before you book, as you’ll often see variations in prices, and you don’t want to miss a deal. The best search engines are the ones that have no affiliation with any airline and make their money via advertising, not bookings.

 

Remember — there is no perfect airline search engine. Even the best have their faults. My favorites are:

 

I finally booked it on makemytrip.Cause that is the only one of the lot which accepts payment in rupees and I didn’t have an international credit card at the time. You will get a discount coupon for Rs1500. After that, the price is close to the lowest price you will see on these search engines.

 

 +/- 3 days

Check and see the prices of your flight for the entire week as prices vary during the week and the most expensive are on Friday, Sunday and Monday. and also always expensive 7 days before and after a holiday of the destination or the origin.

Moreover, it’s always cheaper to fly during the middle of the week than on a weekend, because most people travel on the weekends and airlines hike their prices then.

Early-morning or late-night flights are cheaper because fewer people want to travel then (who wants to wake up early?!). The difference of one day can mean thousands of rupees in savings.

 

 

Always browse incognito and delete your cookies

No, I am not saying you would wanna jerk off to airline ticket prices.(No judgment if that’s your thing, but Jesus is watching)  But the search engine will hike prices up to make you think that tickets are being sold fast so that you would book ASAP. And worst of all is that only you would be given that price. The next passenger will have a price which may be less than yours. Remember when after searching for something in Amazon, then all suggestions you get are based on what you searched for when you go to other websites. That’s the sinister trick of the innocent cookie. So use incognito for something more than porn for once.

 

USE FLIER MILES IF YOU CAN

This is a rich kid thing which I really don’t know too much about. So if you are loyal to an airline or a credit card. Then for every ticket you buy, you will get some points which you can be redeemed later on another ticket. So if you are fortunate enough to have that. USE IT. I know this dude from Chennai who is going to Russia using that. Realized that talking to him about anything else after that is useless. Cause that guys a tourist with cash, we are nomads who live off the land.

 

 

Check out Jeremy’s story in

THINK.TRAVEL.LIFT.GROW

 

WHEN PUTIN SAYS NO VISA, HE MEANS NO VISA

Too good to be true?

I thought so too. But….before that. Lets take a lesson into some international affairs. So, if you look at how Russia has been acting over the past few years in international politics. You can say, Russia has been kinda of a dick.( Largest in the world in terms of area) Mobilizing troops to fight in Syria to annexing parts of Crimea. So, this creates some less than desirable situations in the “Western world” where Europe and the United States think Russia is trying to bring back the glory days with some good old fashioned Kalshnikovs and  “Fuck you” diplomacy. Also a Russian hacker might leak a video of Trump getting a golden shower any day and also prove the Kremlin meddled in the elections(All speculation as of now). On top of that, on the football front, during the Euros in France. The scenes in Marseilles was something which we haven’t seen in football for decades. Where Russian hooligans attacked English fans and French police with unrivaled organization and structure, that many wondered if they were trained for it. ( I will write more on the safety factor later).

So Russia is going through a PR disaster in a way. So in order to make sure that the billions invested in the world cup won’t be put to waste and that fans would turn up in numbers to make it epic. My boi Vlad got this idea to make it Visa free for all the people who have a match ticket.

 

Again. Too good to be true, right? I thought so. So I went to the Russian consulate to talk to this Russian chick named Volga. ( I could dive into her blue eyes like they were the sapphire blue,  crystal clear waters of the Great Baikal lake). So her answer was very ambiguous regarding it. Expected, as this was sometimes in August. When the consulates probably didn’t get the instructions on how to process the World cup fan applicants. Then I send an email to the Russian embassy in New Delhi.

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus fucking Christ. I still made 4 people confirm my ability to comprehend English to make it clear that what was written was that, anyone, no matter what country, can come without a visa provided they have a match ticket. If the Russian dream was that hot girl you wanted to pork with for a while. I just undid her bra.

 

SO WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO

Okay. Its very simple. All you need is a passport.

1.First you order your match tickets(which I will explain in detail later).

2.Then you will be given a chance to fill up the FAN ID info. Fill it, submit and then it will be posted to your address in your home country. That will be your “visa” for your entire time in Russia.

You will get free transport in cities during match days and free cross country train rides( Both of which I will explain later on). It is valid 10 days before the tournament starts and 10 days after it ends. For more info check out this link.

 

 

THAT’S IT. EASIER THAN GETTING A PAN CARD OR WAKING UP FOR THAT 8 AM A SLOT CLASS ON MONDAY.

My one way ticket to paradise

 

THE GOLDEN TICKET

 

 

ONE MOMENT OF SILENCE FOR THE PEOPLE WHO PAYED 75K TO WATCH JUSTIN BEIBER LIP SYNC.”

 

I’l be very candid when I say this. World cup tickets aren’t cheap or easy to get. ( At least for me). And you would be really lucky if you get all the tickets you want. Consider yourself the chosen few if you do. But if you want to increase your chances of getting your tickets. Do what I have been telling you all the way from the start. PREPARE EARLY.

To give you an idea of the demand for the ticket. Lets talk some numbers. On the First Come First Serve part of Sales phase 1.  160,000 tickets went online on 1430 hours IST on 16th Nov. In 24 hours, 98 % of the tickets were sold. With the only ones left were special tickets for people with disabilities’ and obese people( Having that extra slice of pizza might land you a ticket :p). I had been on the online queue for more than 24 hours and still had to wait 30 minutes after the tickets opened to get a chance to choose my product And I couldn’t get all the tickets I wanted as some stadiums were sold out fast. Even less than an hour. That just shows that, for the first time, getting a tatkal ticket is easier than getting this. The entire world wants to be there.

HOW TO BOOK THE TICKETS

  1. Create an account on FIFA.com
  2. Go to this page.

 

TICKETING PHASES

FIFA doesn’t release all the tickets in one go. They allocate a certain amount to each phase. And there are 3 phase. Phase one is already over by now. Phase 2 will commence on Dec 5th and phase 3 after that. All the info for that can be found on this link.

 

MY TICKETS AS OF NOW

  

 

I have booked 5 group stage matches as now and have applied for the random draw for the semi finals. I have my eye on the final, but that is not within my control if I get it or not. A user can book a maximum of 7 tickets. So plan your trip accordingly.

 

The ticket prices for the games can be found on the info-graphic below. CAT 4 is exclusively for Russians only.

(So even if 1 out of 7 people in the world have had their ancestors fucked by Genghis Khan. You won’t come under CAT 4 cause he was Mongolian, not Russian. ) I booked CAT 3 which are the tickets I can afford and in most stadiums, those are the seats behind the goal.

 

1 RUB =1.12 INR (16th Jan 2018)

 

What if you don’t have a match ticket?

Need I say more.

FIFA fan fests are where the party goes into 5th gear on an empty stretch on the highway with nitros and alcohol fueling your beast and yourself. Best part is. ITS ABSOLUTELY  FUCKING FREE. Come on. Its free and an atmosphere to match the best in the world. With fans from around the world sharing the experience with you. I’m getting hard just writing about this.

 

Free transport within Russia

 

Russia is big. I mean huge. I mean a giant Goliath of a country which stretches across two continents. And getting from A to B is not that easy or cheap. But Ma Boi Vlad was generous enough to give us poor football fans something to cheer about.

 

 

Free train services to all the 11 cities where the matches are going to be held. To put it in perspective. The distance between Kaliningrad which is the western most venue to Yekaterinburg, the eastern most is 3,042 KM. Yup 3 mother fucking thousand kilometers. That is a 51 hour train ride which is absolutely free. Let me tell you this, even if you are not a football fan and just want to backpack across Russia on a budget. You wont get a better chance than this.

 

HOW IT WORKS

 

 

The FAN ID again becomes the key that unlocks all doors. Visit this page and book the tickets to where ever you want to go. Pretty straight forward. As of now I don’t think we can use the train to go wherever we want to. We need to have a match ticket in that particular stadium to go there. Also there is a return train too. As of now all the trains listed starts from Moscow to all the other 10 cities. There are sleeper as well as passenger trains depending on the duration. All of which are absolutely free. This should be sweet.

Check out this video to see how the cabin of a Russian train is.

Credits: Copa90

Once you traveled general class from Chennai to Ernakulam at night, with a dude picking his nose 30 cm from your face, concepts of personal space and proximity vanish. So the cozy compartments of the Russian train should be a real treat.

 

Cheap Air tickets in Russia

In Russia there are mainly three airlines for domestic travel.

  1. Pobeda which is the domestic carrier of the national airline Aeroflot
  2. Norwind airlines.
  3. Ural airline

 

Best thing to do is to search for flights in JETRADAR. ( Don’t forget to delete your cookies). And the prices of flights are insane. A flight from Moscow to Saint Petersburg 3 days from today( 30 Nov) costs something less than 2K rupees. I have paid more for a bus to Bangalore. So, once you get to Russia. Your transportation across this giant, majestic country is not as expensive as you think it would be. A little bit of smart planning and preparation would make your journey exponentially less expensive than a packaged holiday.

 

 

The last True FIFA world cup

 

“The only thing permanent in the universe is change”

-KSRTC bus conductors

 

You don’t need me to tell you football is changing. The dynamism of the game is what keeps us hooked to it and sometimes makes us think “what the fuck happened here?”

 

 

There have been two such WTF moments when it comes to the world cup. The first was when Qatar was awarded the chance to host the WC in 2022. The other was the unanimous decision to increase the number of qualified teams to 40 or 48. Both these decisions will have profound impacts which we wont realize right now. But soon enough in the future. The way the game is going to be played will be changed forever and with that, the world cup would too and I am very pessimistic about the outcomes of it.

 

 

First lets talk about the 2026 world cup

 

This year was a year of surprises. If you followed the qualifying campaigns, you would have probably been surprised at the teams that didn’t make it. 2006 champions Italy didn’t make it, 2010 finalists Holland didn’t qualify. Copa America champions Chile didn’t qualify. World cup regulars USA got the knocked while Panama qualified at their expense. It took a Messi master class in Ecuador for Argentina to qualify in their last game. Ivory coast was eliminated by Morocco in Côte d’Ivoire. Australia had to qualify through their inter-continental playoffs in the last chance saloon draw.

 

What I am trying to say is. The world cup is not all about the one month of football extravaganza. It’s a long game where qualifications began in March 2015. It is 2 years of blood, sweat and tears from both the players and the fans, and when a team qualifies for the world cup, the emotions that run through the body of the team and the fans. That feeling of being able to share the stage with the best in the world by virtue of being good enough. That is something which is going to be a nostalgic after -thought when the draws for the 2026 world cup draw comes. All the big teams will be there. Some teams which don’t deserve to be there will be there. There will be a lot of thrashings and huge score games and that feeling of being the “chosen few” would disintegrate  to being the “usual many”. The fight to secure a spot to have the right to stand with the best in the world would sink into the many things a fan would miss. FIFA as an organisation, though more inclusive than many other world wide organisation, is still a capitalist venture where the search for profit is always the supreme motivator and the love for the game can always come second when billions in TV revenue is on offer. And FIFA would continue to do such measures which increase profitability at the cost of the passion for the game. By increasing the duration of the tournament, an extra 1 B in revenues is expected. For me personally, this is the last chance to immerse myself in an international football experience at its rawest, purest, most rabid form which is exactly what the world is going to miss in the future. I am saying this with the knowledge that increasing the number of qualifying teams might increase the chances of India( The team which I support) qualifying. But not at the cost of losing the beauty  out of the beautiful game. NOT AT THE COST OF LOSING THE BEAUTY.

 

 

QATAR is everything wrong with football at the moment

 

With at most respect for all the people of Qatar. I do not mean to disparage your nation and I will be very candid when I say this. I am biased and a big part of that has to do with the fact that I am a Man United devotee. There is no such thing as an unbiased opinion and if someone starts off by saying that. Then you have every reason to suspect that cunt.

 

Qatar won the 2022 world cup bid amidst a barrage of accusations of corruption and fixing the draw. What most people thought was a publicity stunt turned out to be a reality pill which we had to swallow more bitter than sweet.

The only people who were happy about Qatar being given the great honor were of course the Qatari organizing team and the cash cows who run FIFA. ( I certainly hope the people of Qatar were also happy, but I cant really confirm if it created enough of a ruckus).  Qatar presents a lot of problems which could have otherwise been easily avoided.

 

Lets start with the who?

Who is holding the world cup. Qatar. With a population of over 2.5 million, of which only 400,000 are native Qataris. Qatar becomes the smallest nation in terms of area and population to hold a world cup. The last smallest being Switzerland in 1954. This leaves a lot of things to ponder over. With a nation with no particular football culture organically developed and with a native population which prefers laborers from South Asia to do anything which doesn’t involve air- conditioning. Qatar leaves a lot of boxes blank when it comes to exactly why they want to hold the tournament, when they are lacking any incentive which has anything to do with the game to hold the WC.

So the ruling family of Qatar are taking the necessary steps to make sure that they are firmly placed in the world footballing map. That being, co-sponsoring Barcelona FC and owning Paris Saint German football club. The best players in the game today play for these teams. They even have former Barcelona midfielder and one of the best midfielders I have had the privilege to see,Xavi Hernandez  ply his trade in the Qatari league and coaching the national team. There has even been reports of the immigrant laborers payed to dress up in traditional Qatari attire and fill the stands of a match for money. Cant argue with that ,when all the natives are used to watching the game in air conditioned sky-boxes. That being said, Qatar is ranked higher than India and they have all the world  class infrastructure and coaching that would give any of the top European teams a run for their money.

 

 

 

Lets talk about the when?

 

With temperatures touching 50 degrees, it would be close to suicidal to host the WC in the summer. So the logical step would have been to try somewhere else. No. According to some very ambitious people, there are going to be air-conditioned stadiums and they will be donated to African nations who lack in infrastructural means to build their own stadias. You haven’t heard the best part yet. FIFA are planning to hold it in December. In fucking December. Well. Not only have they colossally fucked the WC up, they want to fuck with the leagues too. For those uninitiated to the European league football calendar and especially the English football calendar. December  is the month where the entire season is at its most exciting. With fixtures coming fast and furious, December usually sets the precedent for the rest of the season. Even though most other leagues have a December break. Which in countries other than England gives the players a chance to rest and recover for the second half of the season. If the world cup tears this up, it would be a double whammy and again, football will be the loser and the vested interests of a few power hungry rich bastards would win over passion,again.

 

And finally, the WHY?

Why does Qatar want to hold a FIFA world cup? To answer this, there is a lot of geo-political economic vested interests that we need to look at. All of which are too complicated and boring for me to explain here. So I will super simplify what the agenda is. Qatar would be the first nation to host the cup having not being able to qualify for it. Qatar was once one of the poorer nations in the world until they found oil and gas under the ground(cause that’s where the ICE AGE movies come to die) and after that they have gone from selling pearls on a bargain to having the highest GDP per capita( meaning they are on paper,they are richest nation in the world). So,with all those resources, this tiny juggernaut want to create a name for itself in the world and it is using the only thing which connects all of humanity together. Football. Which  really pisses me off as football is one of the only things which is truly democratic. Where money doesn’t mean you win, your passion, your effort and  your fight WILL get you over the line. This is what football has lost, with teams like MAN CITY, PSG, and other oligarchies buying their way to success from absolute obscurity. It pisses me off. It really does. Until Leicester proved us all wrong. I had lost my faith for a moment in the magic of football. But the world cup brings that back. And I don’t want to see a world cup where all the values that a pure football fan despises are celebrated. Where it is a celebration of money and nothing else.

 

Plus you wont see the Brazilian chicas in Qatar. They will cover em up.

 

 

 

 

 

LETS RAISE THE INDIAN FLAG HIGH

Right now is the most exciting time to be a football fan in India. The past 5 years football has seen an unprecedented rise in  prominence . With the men’s team reaching its highest rank in decades in mid 2017 and on an unbeaten run which is only next to world champions Germany. Football in the country has seen a shot to life at a pace which was quite unexpected. I remember when I saw my first game of India, in Kochi, vs Palestine in 2012. There were my mates and a few 100 fans, most of whom were either too drunk or too ignorant to know the names of at least one Indian player. Even we at the time couldn’t identify more than 3. But right now, our national team players are household names( not to the extent of cricket, I agree). The ISL has brought some much needed resources into the game.( Even though I think it’s more of a circus than a league). Fan groups like Manjappada and West Block blues along with the old timers from East Bengal and Mohun Bagan and most important of all, the North East teams like Aizwal have begun to firmly set root in football fan culture. Right now, we are more concerned about our European clubs, cause our generation fell in love with the sport watching the players there. I hope the next generation of football fans in the country would germinate watching the football domestically and be enthralled by the Udantas and the Vineeths the same way they are by the Lampards and the Iniestas( Not a comparison between the players).

 

 

Aizwal FC is a fairy tale in the football story of India. With a budget less than the yearly salary of some strikers of the Kolkata club. When they won the I-league in 2017 the capacity crowd which had been with the club from division 2. It was solace for the fans and the Mizo people. These fans prove numbers, money and history all will bow down to passion.


 

West Block Blues , the supporters group of Bengaluru FC have been vociferous supporters since the inception of the club in 2013. Being the pioneers with English chants and large banners which changed the fan culture in the country for good.


 

Manjappada( meaning “Yellow Army” in Malayalam) paints the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium  yellow on match days and has a travelling fan group which usually outnumbers and out-sings the home sides. With an average attendance of 55 thousand, support is something Kerala Blasters never come lacking in.


 

The romantic club of India with a history which predates the country and formed with nationalistic roots. The Mohun Bagan fans will always turn up in numbers and give support with ecstatic passion and pride. The Kolkata derby in 1997 holds the highest attendance record in India with 1,30,000 fans.


 

The East Bengal supporters have been known to leave no stones untured when it comes to supporting the team and turn up in insane numbers. With chants and songs and a healthy banter which can match the best in Europe. Derby days bring the highest crowds in the county.


 

 

So, this is our chance to show the world that there is a country called India on the world football map and that we are just as passionate about the game as anyone. Make the tri-colour fly high in the 11 cities across Russia and spread the love for the game. Meet people from across the world. Share our stories, our struggles, our joys and our love for this insane drug called football. Trust me when I say this. Nothing.  I mean absolutely nothing has the power to bring people together the same way as football does. So, we have to do our part to make sure we are heard. That we are remembered. So lets do this. Lets all walk into the Luzniki stadium singing “Hum honge Kamayab” and one day  we shall overcome and become a footballing nation like I know we will. Cause there are a lot of teams which might not have great players, but their fans have created such an impact that they are infamous for exactly that. Lets make the blue tigers infamous for all the right reasons.

Raw passion.