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And so to Sochi.

Talk to a tour guide and Sochi seems to only date back to the Winter Olympics. The alpine events occurred up in the mountains, where there were previously only rudimentary ski rope tows but where there is now a massive ski resort. The events that were housed indoors (ice hockey, skating etc) were held in purpose built facilities down on the coast. They included the Fisht Stadium, built ostensibly for the opening and closing ceremonies only but which has since been converted to a very handy football stadium, the scene of our fateful match with Peru.

Frankly given the heat and humidity in Sochi at the moment, it's hard to believe that winter sports of any kind could be held here.

The 'city' itself is a collection of regions stretched like a thin band up and down the Black Sea coast for tens of kilometres. The 'old' central part of town is temporary home to the Fan Fest. Here the beachside promenades are older, noisy and crowded with everything from eateries to souvenir shops to amusement rides. The stadium itself is a good 30 minute drive south to Adler, where the seemingly endless promenade is newer, broader and grander.

Between the promenades and the sea are the thousands upon thousands of deck chairs and umbrellas, all to enhance the interesting experience of lying on, walking on and once you're in the sea, balancing on the dark rounded stones that pass for a beach. Australians, we are very lucky to have our wonderful coastline!

However we aren't so lucky, or maybe we just aren't so talented, or maybe a bit of both on the football pitch.

Once again there were lots of times when we dominated the game and did everything but score. Still, we won't get better unless we do all the things we need to back home. Having more professional players across more than one division would I believe be a great start. There's much more than that to be done - but that's for other commentary better experienced than me.

The Peruvian fans were boisterous, colourful, incredibly loud and blew any Australian support away. Above all, they love their team and from the opening day of this World Cup were determined, no matter what city they were in (and they were everywhere) to enjoy their time back at the Cup, after so long.

My lasting memory is meeting several Peruvian father-and-sons, the dads in their fifties and their sons in their early thirties. The lads had never seen Peru at the World Cup in their lifetime - many said for years they listened to their father's memories of their last appearance - and for those family units this was a very special trip over three decades in the making. I thought back to my own family football experiences, watching the Socceroos at the World Cup on black and white TV with my father in the 1970s, and the special feeling 32 years later being in the stands in Kaiserslautern watching our first World Cup victory against Japan. I knew exactly what yesterday meant to those Peru fans and well, it took a little of the pain of the loss away.

So my time in Russia concludes in a couple of days. I have to return once again to my real life and that begins with a European IVF conference in Barcelona. From there I have to get home and be the professional and family man again.

But there will always be football.


Categories: People | Football Life | World Cup

#russia2018, 2018 world cup, peru, socceroos fans, sochi

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