Russia has been invaded… by FIFA. And the city is welcoming the invaders with open arms.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup began over the weekend, with soccer (football) matches at the three main Moscow sports stadiums.
The FIFA games have been a tremendous boon for Moscow and will be for many cities across the Russian Federation as the fans sweep across European Russia, following their teams as they play in a total of 64 matches in 12 different venues located in 11 cities.
Muscovites and visitors from other countries alike enjoyed the antics of many of the fans who visited. In particular, the most colorful visitors this year appeared to be from Mexico; in fact, some 25,000 Mexicans were expected in Russia for the World Cup.
However, the Mexicans had rowdy competition from the Brazilian contingent and the Iranians as well as the Swedes and everyone else involved with FIFA.
Interestingly, the American team failed to make it to this match event, but many Americans could be seen all across Moscow over the weekend. Tour groups came to Russian Orthodox Church parishes and got treated to stellar singing, as at the Divine Liturgy celebrated at the Church of St John the Forerunner, on Piatnitski Street near the Tretyakov district in the center of town. The clergy giving the sermon graciously gave it again in English for the benefit of the visitors in the Church on Sunday.
Similar scenes have been visible all across Moscow. The city itself has been in preparation for this event, and in some places the construction actually is an ongoing project, as with the Dinamo Stadium, and around Red Square. A phalanx of construction worker dwellings is visible near the famed St Basil’s Cathedral on Saturday afternoon, where it has been for some time.
There was a tragic event, though thankfully it could have been worse. As seen elsewhere on The Duran, a taxi driver apparently lost control of his car and plowed through a group of tourists on the sidewalk. It was a miracle that there were no serious injuries, but it apparently terrified the driver and he ran away, only to be apprehended by bystanders. Apparently, according to reports, he fell asleep. It was a very warm day in Moscow, and sitting in a hot car in almost immovable traffic can get to a person, but thankfully, of the eight people injured, none was reported as serious.
One of the most significant things about this World Cup is that it is happening in Russia, which has been berated by the UK, the United States and some other western powers for years now, concerning the reunification of Crimea with Russia (termed “illegal annexation” by the West), Russia’s anti-gay laws, and the country’s increasingly conservative – and Christian – alignment.
It is a pity that the US team did not qualify for this event because it might have brought more Americans into the country. One American visitor who was asked about her experience in Russia, simply said, “I love it… it’s totally different (than what the news media says about this place.)”
Far from the gloomy pictures often portrayed by the newsmedia of the United States and other places in the West, Russia is vibrant, particularly in the major cities such as Moscow, St Petersburg and Samara. The country is probably fairly understood as a “frontier” nation, because of its geographical size and great stretches of undeveloped and underdeveloped lands.
Historically it is fascinating, as the scars of the Soviet era are still quite visible in many places, but the dilapidated structures from that time are often in sharp contrast to the new and more modern buildings, as well as the newly restored pre-Revolutionary historic sites. Moscow is particularly replete with such places.
One can expect that a great many people here to watch the soccer matches will also notice the warmth and openness of Russian society, and how free the country feels. The visitors will be aided and abetted in that they can get tickets that allow them free travel to follow the games around the country.
When the United States hosts the World Cup in 2026, it will be hard pressed to duplicate the hospitality and economy of this event here.
The World Cup draws all eyes to Russia. Maybe this is great timing and maybe it will be yet another little (or maybe not so little) event that helps reveal the fog of lies the West has tried to build around this country.
It is certain to be true that the people that came here from the West to visit will not go back home thinking and feeling the same way about Russia as they might have before.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.