As far as she can remember, Karen is a soccer fan. Last summer, she attempted, for the first time in her life, the most prestigious soccer competition: the FIFA World Cup! During twelve days, she traveled to Russia, the hosting country, with family and friends. In the shadow of the tournament, she met and connected with incredible people and discover storybook towns.
- What appeal you to go to Russia for the 2018 World Cup?
Karen: I was thrilled to experience a World Cup and see majors players like Messi and Ronaldo. I was more attracted by the worldwide event than by a particular attachment to the hosting country.
- Which games did you watch?
Karen: I went to Kazan’s stadium for Spain vs Iran and to St Petersburg’s stadium for Brazil vs Costa Rica. I watched Colombian vs Spain and Russia vs Uruguay in a bar. As for the other games, I was in the Fan Zone which was really festive with live bands, chants and a lot of supporters.
- How was Spain vs Iran game?
Karen: The city of Kazan hosted Spain vs Iran, so I flew from Moscow. I was cheering for Spain and was seated eight rows behind the goalie, a perfect spot! I felt especially touched by this game seeing numerous Iranian women among us in the grand stand. Indeed, it was the first time they were able to attempt a game! I don’t see a lot of them with jersey but with flag makeup instead. It was a special moment, history was made.
- How was Brazil vs Costa Rica at St Petersburg’s stadium?
Karen: The stadium was bigger than in Kazan with a view of the ocean. Majority of supporters were Brazilians. It was extraordinary to feel their passion for soccer.
- Did you meet a lot of supporters? Where did they come from?
Karen: What made this event special is the diversity of people. I didn’t see a lot of Americans but I met a lot of Latinos, Brazilian and Argentinians. This multicultural diversity was pretty close from what I can see in Los Angeles. However, it was special for me to meet Latinos from everywhere: Ireland, Russia, and Australia. For the anecdote, supporters didn’t cheer for a surrogate team if their team was eliminated from the tournament; they were loyal to their roots.
- How were locals and Russian supporters?
Karen: I first landed in Moscow. In the beginning, the Russian were reserved and uncommunicative. They are not used to this kind of diversity and they may have been frustrated by the language barriers but, three days after the beginning of the competition, it changed. In the Fan Zone, for example, Russians started to sing in English and we all exchanged drinks. By the 5th day of the tournament, more Russians came to the games. I think it was also better as Russia team kept winning games [They went to the quarter-finals versus Croatia].
- Did you visit Russia during your trip?
Karen: I learned a lot about Russia history. I visited a lot of amazing places during my trip even if some museum were closed: the Red Square, the Hermitage, orthodox churches, The Peterhof Palace also called the “Russian Versailles” and many more. St Petersburg is beautiful and people are open-minded. I really enjoyed it.
- What is your most memorable moment?
Karen: My most memorable moment is definitely my 23 hours train ride from Kasan to St Petersburg. At first sight, we were only traveling with local but quickly we met two Spanish men, a Mexican in the cabin restaurant, one Iranians women teaching Spanish and two Venezuelans living in St Petersburg. Our passion for soccer, as well as our Latinos roots, created a special connection between us. We started talking and debating about soccer, political, etc. It was really special and unique. When we disembarked in St Petersburg, we hang out during the tournament and we’re still in touch today!
- Would you like to experience a World Cup again?
Karen: I would love to live this experience again. I’m convincing my uncle to join me for the next one in Qatar. World Cup is a great experience and an open door for the country. Likewise, it encourages connections, interactions and develops open-minded people.
- What soccer event will you attempt next?
Karen: Next, I consider to go to Brazil for Copa America with my brother. I’m also looking for the Euro Cup in two years, especially as many European countries will host games. Of course, after my amazing experience this year in Russia, I think through going to the next World cup in Qatar. To finish, I also have the Champion Ligue on my bucket list. The following years are going to be soccer crazy-busy!
Thanks, Karen for sharing your experience!
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