спартак (Spartak)

      Fans on their way in past the imposing statue of Lenin.

I made it to my first football match in Moscow on Tuesday to watch Spartak take on Celtic in the Champion’s League at the Luzhniki. It’s always interesting to go and watch sport in another country and draw comparisons to the heavenly stadium that is Anfield. When I was in Argentina I took a trip to watch Boca play and came away in awe of the zealous support; the ground literally shook from 20 minutes before kick off until ten minutes after the final whistle. The actual standard of play wasn’t much cop since all the best players are snatched at infancy by the Europeans, kind of like Pocahontas, except the majority succumb to booze and women and not smallpox.
That kind of atmosphere isn’t found in English stadia anymore. It’s all too peaceful, respectful. People have to be able to earn a fair amount to watch their team live and they’re too modest to be singing and chanting for nine minutes, let alone ninety, so it’s usually left to the die hard away fans to make the most noise. I know the players are becoming more refined, but they’re not playing at The Globe just yet.
The Spartak fans were in no way as raucous as their Argentinean counterparts, but they still raised the decibels higher than at home (sure there may be 65,000 of them, but the stadium is hardly intimate).
What was most interesting however (apart from the halftime cheerleaders) was the level of security. I doubt there are as many checks for the 0920 Islamabad to New York, and you might as well give yourself the same amount of time as you would going to an airport too. Four times I was frisked between the outer gate and the steps to the stand, and the officers must have been watching a lot of Die Hard too because all of them reached round my back. At what point I was able to stick a weapon there during the twenty meters from check to check I don’t know, especially since there had to be some kind of officer clutching a baton every five paces. They even did the old school stay in the ground for fifteen minutes for the away fans, all 35 of them, and yet there was never any malice shown in their direction even after the Scots grabbed a last minute winner. What was their reaction? To flood out of the gates with five minutes of injury time to play. Seems some things remain the same the world over.

                     The Luzhniki.

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