Postcard from Russia
Mark Bowman gives us the view from the stands so far20 June 2018 | Mark Bowman
What a whirlwind few days. Arrival into Moscow hours before the first game of the tournament and a quick-fire taking in of Moscow's sights over less than 24 hours. For me, that was largely Soviet style nostalgia, including "retro Metro" stations and the Museum of Cosmonautics - recalling a time when the Space Race was a one horse one led by the Russians.
(Interestingly, outside of the markets, its hard to come across good old fashioned "CCCP" stuff).
Then a quick flight to Kazan and the next day it was that fantastic effort against the French.
Media reports suggest that there are around 10,000 Australians following the Socceroos across their three games (and hopefully beyond!). As has been reported it's been an affordable party like atmosphere. Yes there may be "part time" Socceroos fans, but the more World Cups I attend, the more I'm impressed as to most fans’ knowledge of our game. If only we could raise our football engagement and culture as a nation for the other 3 years and 11 months out of four.
It's at the Cup when I'm reminded that Australian fans can't just roll up every four years and follow a team that can go all the way, without becoming a true football nation for the rest of the time. We'll otherwise condemn ourselves to being the perennial courageous losers or the "ripped off" minnows.
And what of my ongoing dilemma as to whether I and other Australian fans should be here?
Well, our team certainly wants us here, given the volume of colour and noise the Australian fans gave to the game against France. Paul Pogba apparently said that it felt as if they were playing the game in Australia.
Away from the game, the thousands of travelling fans are diverse and many move beyond devouring beer in the pubs (although there is a fair bit of that). From walking tours of the historic part of Kazan, through to one young fan taking the microphone in a packed Karaoke bar and spontaneously turning a Russian pop song into an ode to Daniel Arzani, the Australians’ capacity to enrich and be enriched knows no bounds.
And, just quietly, there is the opportunity to discuss one-on-one with the occasional local about the concerns many of us have. Especially in Tatarstan where a proud, well-off autonomous region has gradually seen their independence disappear.
I've now arrived in Samara on the next leg of this fascinating journey for the match against Denmark on Thursday.
2018 world cup, #russia2018, socceroos fans, active support