Sunday, 1 August 2010

Spartak Moscow v CSKA Moscow. 01/08/10

"That cheer must be for one of two reasons. Either somebody has scored or Vagner Love has broken his leg"

Spartak Moscow 1-2 CSKA Moscow. Luzhniki Stadium.
Sunday 01/08/10
The centrepiece of this eagerly anticipated trip to Russia alongside seeing the surreal sight of Vladimir Lenin's embalmed body was the Moscow derby. Spartak v CSKA at the Luzhniki Stadium. And to think we almost didn't make it!

For those not familiar with the locals vodka drinking technique and it's results, it goes something like this. You are given a bottle of vodka, quite large, which you drink out of shot glasses straight consuming one every two minutes. You can have an accompanying drink with it, such as a coke or lemonade, but to mix the two is heresy along the lines of punching Vladimir Putin in the groin. By the end of the evening, the aim is to have consumed one of these bottles all to yourself. If you aren't used to this it can lead to extreme intoxication which the Russian folk appear to be rather adept at in attempting to convince you you haven't paid for any of your drinks or food.

Drinking the Russian way
The bottle of vodka we consumed one each
of and the accompanying drink - some bizarre
If you argue the point some burly security guards will arrive and attempt to get you to pay again by stopping you from leaving the restaurant. But thankfully the Russian police aren't as corrupt or as useless as they say, and they will often sort out the problem and send you on your way.

At which point you can then complicate things further by getting in a random car mistaking it for a taxi, handing the address of your hotel to the man in the drivers seat and making him take you there. He may stop several times and ask you to get out, but you'll have none of it, insisting he takes you. Being one of the countries hospitable folk, he will do and then look thoroughly confused when you give him a wad of cash for his troubles.

Smog from the forest fires made the city cloudy and even hotter
So that was the Saturday evening before the game. Quite an introduction to the Motherland. Sunday was game day and it was absolutely sweltering. Only we could pick the hottest summer in Russian history to visit Moscow with fires engulfing the countryside around the city and causing a smoke haze in it. Walk for a minute down the road and you were saturated in sweat. Even Rumble - a man who famously urinates once an hour - could go a day without visiting a bathroom as he lost so much fluid. It was so hot that you were really quite grateful for the bottles and cans of beer that were lobbed about on the escalator at the metro station outside the ground for cooling you down with their liquid.

Moscow Metro - a bit grander than the London Underground
You could spend all day on the Moscow Metro quite happily with it's stations covered in gold, marble and fine artwork and we very nearly did not being able to understand a word of cyrillic and there being absolutely no English. It wasn't hard to find the Luzhniki Stadium however - just follow the baying mob of fans with their flags and beers and you were there.

Lenin overlooks the outside of the Luzhniki
The place itself was huge. So big in fact that it wasn't even full for two of the cities four sides facing each other. Lenin remains a popular figure in these parts - I guess you have to be to have your dead body still on display nearly 90 years after you joined the great big Communist Party in the sky - and he has a giant statue outside the stadium. Inside it is pretty basic, a massive Soviet bowl complete with running track and big scoreboards at either end.

CSKA Moscow fans
Spartak Moscow fans
If you don't like fireworks, pyrotechnics or loud bangs then a Moscow derby probably isn't somewhere you should go. If there is one thing the Russians are good at other than vodka drinking and worshipping dictators, then it is being able to set off copious amounts of explosives in any given location. And on this occasion, it included the sort of banger you see over The Thames on New Years Eve in the row behind us.

The teams enter the Luzhniki
Just a few pyrotechnics from the Spartak fans
We were in with the home Spartak fans and they were a jolly bunch. When not letting off fireworks, there were scarves waved in the air, giant flags featuring octopuses, displays with cards and the obligatory monkey noises for CSKA's Vagner Love everytime he touched the ball. The Spartak fans at the other end gave as good as they got with their own displays and banners although they didn't quite manage to reach the racism levels of their opposite numbers.

The atmosphere was unlike anything I have ever experienced with the noise simply incredible. When Spartak took the lead through an own goal from Vasiliy Berezutski in the second half it felt like the ceiling was going to be lifted off the place and that was despite the fact there were just shy of 30,000 empty seats. If it had have been full to capacity, then the roof probably would have been a goner.

Paul the Octopus?
With things getting "pwaper noughtie" as Danny Dyer would have it, we decided the best thing to do was leave with five minutes remaining to avoid being caught up in what would probably have been an almighty scrum after the game. As we left, two loud roars in quick succession that could be heard the five minute walk away at the metro station meant one of two things - either Vagner Love had broken his leg and the fans were celebrating, or somebody had scored. Thankfully it turned out to be the latter as two late goals for CSKA justified the decision to get out of there before the end. Including one for Mr Love himself.

Entrance to the Kremlin
The wonderful Saint Basil's Cathedral
You can't go to Moscow and not see the sights so that is exactly what we did on the Monday after the game, walking around the Kremlin and visiting Saint Basil's Cathedral. The Cathedral is hard to describe, looking like something out of a Roald Dahl book but is absolutely magnificent. It's one of those buildings that you come across every now and again traveling that you could simply stand and look at for hours and not get bored of.

Lenin's Mausoleum
Having a lie down in Red Square
Lenin's Mausoleum is another, but unfortunately you can't stand around, take photos, talk or have your hands in your pockets. It is only open for three hours a day, three days a week but was well worth seeing even if to some people it is simply just walking down some steps, into a freezing cold room and around the body of a dead bloke.

Any country that classifies beer as a food source and so can sell it for 90p a pint in food courts in its large underground shopping centres at any time of day is fine by me. It worked out far cheaper to drink in their versions of Bluewater than it did in actual bars where the beer became overpriced for what it was. Particularly chocolate beer. But despite that, the fact we nearly got conned, arrested and blown up, Moscow was a fantastic place to visit. Just don't mention vodka to me ever again.

That is some impressive water pressure 
Look away Chelsea fans - the spot where your Champions
League dreams ended in 2008
Spartak Moscow: Sergey Ignashevich, Fedor Kudryashov, Sergey Parshivlyuk, Martin Stranzl, Marek Suchy, Jano Ananidze, Ibson, Alex (Cristian Maidana), Aleksandr Zotov, Nikita Bazhenov (Ivan Saenko), Welliton.

CSKA Moscow: Igor Akinfeev, Aleksey Berezutski, Vasili Berezutski, Sergey Ignashevich 1, Georgi Schennikov, Keisuke Honda, Pavel Mamaev, Deividas Semberas, Zoran Tosic (Sekou Oliseh), Vagner Love 1 (Elvir Rahimic), Seydou Doumbia.

Attendance: 65,000