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iPhone Archive: Moscow

I arrived in Moscow on opening day of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia to attend the competition for the first time even though my country wasn't among the field of 32. Though my friend and I purchased tickets for games in Nizhny Novgorod, Saransk, and Kazan, the cheapest way to travel involved flying into the Russian capital and then taking the Trans-Siberian Railway to our next destinations.

Our plane touched down in the morning of June 14 but we booked an overnight train to Nizhny to save money on lodging and allow for a few hours to explore Moscow.

Because the opening game between Russia and Saudi Arabia kicked off at 6:00 p.m. and we weren't due back for our trip until midnight, we figured we'd watch the game at the Moscow Fan Fest.

After a quick visit to the Red Square, we walked down into a packed subway to make our way to the park hosting the fanfest. Vorobyovy Gory could host up to 25,000 and was located fewer than 1,000 meters from the Luzhniki Stadium, site of the opening game.

We mixed up the match's start time and it began as our train barreled towards our destination on the banks of the Moskva River. Everyone in our car erupted in applause just a few minutes into our ride -- the driver announced that Yury Gazinsky scored to put the host country up 1-0 in the 12th minute.

Then we encountered our first true Russian experience.

Not only did our train ignore the Luzhniki Stadium exit, but it didn't slow down for either of the next two stops. FIFA awarded Russia the World Cup in 2010 and in the ensuing eight years, the country failed to finish construction on the subway stop that took fans to the competition's main stadium and largest Fan Fest.

We exited as soon as we could, almost two miles past where we wanted to stop, and called an Uber. It was near halftime when we finally reached the correct location.

Many locals were in the same boat as us and a near riot ensued when security closed the entrance to the Fan Fest just as hundreds of Russians arrived. Instead, everyone began climbing a 10-foot metal fence in an attempt to watch their national team.

I grabbed a hold of one of the bars to climb, but my friend simply stood there and shook his head. He was right to do so -- police waited on the other side and handcuffed nearly every single person in this photo.

We missed the game, a 5-0 Russia win. The host country would continue to prove itself unprepared with several infrastructure projects that it "only" had seven-and-a-half years to complete. And other than when Russia played, the Fan Fests would mostly feature far more open space than soccer supporters.

At least I didn't climb the fence, though. I don't imagine that the police treat journalists well after arresting them. Especially American journalists.


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