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The beautiful game
Ranjita Biswas | 16 Jun 2018
The beautiful game
After four years the ‘Beautiful Game’ is again going to keep the world, at least most of it, enthralled for more than a month or so. As the group matches will progress, people’s daily routine will be adjusted, depending on the allegiance to doosri country- for the time being, in our case.

And Russia will be in focus, continuously, no matterwho puts sanctions on the country, who rebukes it for siding with who you know in the Middle East. Football is football, after all, and this is the World Cup, no less. Let’s forget about politics, even dark warnings of racism inwhite Russia, fans pouring into this vast country would dismiss with fluke of a finger.

 

Watching the preparations and umpteen number of programmes built around the Game, brought back vivid memories of our visit to Russialast year.Sometimes it was irritating to becaught  in traffic jams- ‘due to the road construction..you know, World Cup,” the taxi driver  would inform in broken English. Agood  excuseperhaps to make  detours and charge us double the fare. No use protesting. Moscow taxis, most of them in certain ‘lines’, are known for fleecing tourists, the hotel staff  informed later.

 

 

So we took to the Metro, which is extremely cheap but equally, with extremely difficult  names to pronounce. And  the language problem.  So we went back to the age-old line of communication- sign language - how many tickets we wanted by showing the number of fingers and which station to alight helpfully circled in the map by the hotel staff. It was worth it. I mean, not only the unbelievably cheap fare but the Metro stations themselves. I had long heard about the Moscow Metro stations, each like a museum showpiece. True to its reputation, it did not disappoint. Opened in 1935, it’s regarded as the most beautiful subway in the world. Artworks, different colouredtiles and stonework adorn different stations. Perhaps Moscovites are so used to them that they don’t have time to stand and stare- they seemed to be perpetually in a hurry- but we gaped, literally , wondering how such beauties were kept sans vandalism, and no ‘Anup loves Rita’ kind of graffiti in the Russian version.

 

 

But we could also feel the excitement in the air about the World Cup.In talks at the Red Square  while conversing with young people who could speak English, and vast courtyards inside the Kremlin as the guide described the landmarks, on the pedestrian walk in Old Arbat,inside the pretty GUM shopping complex with its flower gardens  and fountains and shops with unaffordable prices (for us).

 

Only the majestic Orthodox Churches with their colourful facades seemed to be weary about the whole madness.

 

It was less talked about in St. Petersburg, the city with a French ambience, the beloved city of Peter the Great and Empress Catherine. Inside the vast Hermitage Museum board games and sword-play seemed to have been favoured games of the nobles. As we looked open-mouthed at the glitteringexhibits and the great artworks by famous painters, how could we imagine that this city would soon witness a different fervour- of  round ball making every lover of the beautiful game go round the bend? But outside, the streets already had pop-up of theZabivakathe friendly wolf mascot of this FIFA game. Souvenir shops were already placing orders for knick-knacks featuring iconic symbols of the game, the salesgirl told us.

 

As I sit now to enjoy the ‘atmosphere’ around the Cup in Moscow or St. Petersburg, I somehow feel that I am there- with the crowd.