World Cup diary: Russians ‘love us’

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Pompey fan James Robbins is with friends following England in the World Cup

WITH all the hype of English fans supposedly set to be targeted by Russians after all the political tensions between the two nations, it has — as usual before a major tournament — been totally blown out of proportion.

In fact, what you realise when you are out here is that Russians actually love English people.

These supposed ‘hooligans’ have gone out of their way to welcome us.

As well as being great hosts they have been a lot of fun with them singing Oasis songs with us, God Save the Queen, Three Lions and many more over a drink. They really look up to how we follow our country and would like Russia to be the same. This has been my experience everywhere we’ve been so far.

On the day of the Tunisia match my friend and I went to the local pub which translates as ‘O’hooligans’ — a place where the Volgograd hooligans drink. It sounded intimidating. But after entering the premises I can honestly say they were the nicest people. They were delighted England fans were in there pub and loved speaking to us. One of them even cried when I gave him a spare ticket to the game.

After England’s win, we thought it would be nice to take a trip to Poland ahead of the Panama game in Kaliningrad. But the odd thing is that we were genuinely gutted to be leaving.

England fans — as with most other trips — have been absolutely fine. Even after the excitement of the last gasp winner. I haven’t celebrated a goal like Harry Kane’s since Marc McNultys in the play- off final against Plymouth.

There haven’t been any problems with Russian police either from what I’ve seen. Obviously with major tournaments there is a big police and army presence in and round the cities but they haven’t been doing much — simply due to the fact there hasn’t been much for them to do. They don’t say anything to you as they walk the streets, though there is a lot of them about so you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of them.

Mine and many other fans’ experiences out in Russia is backed up by the Football Supporters’ Federation. It says this tournament has seen the lowest turnout of England fans at a major tournamentin 30 years as a result of the ‘disproportionate’ warning about hooliganism taking place.

Fans even reported feeling outnumbered against Tunisia with there more than 4,000 empty seats.

This is a far cry from previous tournaments where stadiums are normally packed with England supporters, who, it is generally accepted, travel in the greatest numbers to support our team. Until this tournament, of course.

‘Never before has the disparity between the picture painted of what was likely to befall us and the reality we actually encountered been as great as what we experienced in Volgograd,’ the FSF said in a blog post.

‘Over the years, regular travellers with England have had good reason to become sceptical about some of the dire warnings,’ it said.

James Robbins