Watching football is one of my favourite sports – if that’s ever counted as a sport (probably never 😂).
It was all started with the 2002 World Cup. For the first time in history, it was organised in 2 Asian countries, so all the matches were arranged during day time, or at least not very late at night (read: during my waking hours). It was also the first time I watched Germany played, ever (or any football match, really). They beat Saudi Arabia 8-0 in the opening match. I was impressed and immediately fell in love with Miroslav Klose ❤️ #eh
So ever since that day, I closely followed their journey throughout the World Cup, and later on the Euros. (I am never interested to watch club-level championships). Sometimes I wish that I could watch them played, live, but of course that was just a dream. Honestly, I never give it much thought (because it’s likely to be super expensive). For me, the most important thing was to see them win the tournament. So you could imagine how ecstatic I was when they finally won the 2014 World Cup. My brother and I were jumping and hugging each other like crazy at 4 in the morning. Twelve years I’ve been waiting for them to lift the trophy. And that day, I thought my World Cup journey was complete. The feeling that was exacerbated by the fact that most of the players on the team retired just afterwards, including Klose himself. And they were the generation of players that I’ve been following for the past decade. Which is why, to be honest, I didn’t make any plans to attend this year’s World Cup. I even missed the first (ticket) sales phase. But then some of my friends I knew managed to get the ticket, so I thought there might be hope and made a mental note to participate in the next sales phase.
When the second sales phase opened, my husband and I stood by our laptops and phones, all with the World Cup ticketing page opened. I also checked the Twitter to see how it went for other people. It was crazy. Apparently many people could get into the website immediately but could not proceed through the payment. I did not have much hope actually. But after 5 hours, my husband could get in to the website!!! Of course most of the tickets were gone, but there were some tickets left for Germany’s match with South Korea! We proceeded to choose that ticket, went through the payment page, and that was it!!! We got the tickets!!! Alhamdulillah! ❤️❤️❤️
Afterwards, we just realised that the match would be held in Kazan and truth to be told, we had no idea where Kazan was. We checked Google maps and found that it was in the middle of Russia. Ok perhaps not in the middle, middle, but still a bit further east from Moscow. We immediately booked the flight and hotel, because we were afraid that it would get more and more expensive later on (they already were). And since ticket holders were entitled to free transportation between host cities, we also decided to book the train tickets to Moscow and had our flight back from there. Oh and I should also probably mention that you don’t need visa to travel to Russia during the World Cup as long as you own a match ticket and apply for FAN-ID document.
We arrived in Kazan one day before the match. While taking a walk that afternoon, we saw a bunch of people wearing German’s attributes gathered around a hotel. Then I saw a bus with Germany’s flag on the side. Then it dawned on me: this must be the hotel where the team stayed!!! And it was just one block away from our hotel!!!
We decided to join the crowd and wait. But nobody really knew when they would go out. I was tired and it was a really hot day, so we decided to come back later. At least I had taken a selfie with the bus (I know, pathetic 😂).
When we went out for dinner, we saw that the crowd was still there. So we took a swing and decided to wait (again). It was a very long wait. And I stood on the wrong side so I did not actually see when the players got into the bus. But for 10 glorious seconds I saw Joachim Löw with my own eyes. And for another 10, I thought I saw Miroslav Klose on the bus. Like the others, I frantically waved when the bus left. Some players smiled and waved back. Now I finally understand how fangirling feels like 😂😂
The next day was a big day for us. It was a match that would decide whether Germany would proceed to the next round or not. I was nervous, as if it were me who would play. We decided to go to the stadium early, and by early I mean 3 hours before the match. During the match day, we could use the public transportation for free, and there were also shuttle bus from the city centre. The volunteers helped us showing the way. And I should mention that I really appreciate the volunteers’ presence there. They were really nice, helpful, and all smiling.
We had to get off some distance away from the entrance to the stadium and walked for about 15 min. And along the way, the volunteers were again there, cheering for us (probably to lift our spirits also because it was not easy walking in such a heat). 😅
When we arrived, we decided to buy some water first (because we were not allowed to bring any food & drink from the outside). I said we could buy 2 bottles but my husband said we should buy 3. What we did not know was… The seller would take off the caps and put the bottles inside a huge glass. So then we had to carry those 3 glasses everywhere in the stadium 😅 (lesson learned: don’t buy more than you can carry).
Because we bought the cheapest tickets for the match, we got seated on the short side of the stadium, behind South Korea’s goalposts and together with Russian supporters (the citizens of Russia had their own special price). My first thought was… wow the field was so small! Well of course it looked small because we saw it from above 😅😅 From where I sat, I couldn’t even see the players’ face, so it was a bit of a lost cause trying to identify the players by myself.
There were some things that I did not know before I watch a (World Cup) match in the stadium:
- There was Wi-Fi in the stadium
- The referees also had to do some warming up (not important, I know)
- The supporters could get really, really loud
- The screen in the stadium did not show the match that was being played (like in the TV), but instead when there was a goal it would show the word ‘goal’ and when somebody got the yellow card, it would show the yellow card and the name of the player 😅
At first I was pretty optimistic with the match. But in the middle of the match, I saw that Sweden had had 2 goals against Mexico and Germany had not scored anything. Then happened the first goal. Then the second goal. To be fair, I did not blame Neuer for trying to get in the middle of the field. Time was running out, and they were one player short. Honestly, I did not see the two goals on my own because everybody around me were standing and I was just sitting there. It was too painful to watch.
So yeah, they were out of the tournament. I tried (nonchalantly) to convince myself that it was just a game, and they could not be on top forever, they were bound to lose sometimes. I am not a football expert and I don’t know technically what is wrong with the team. But one thing for sure was this was not the same team that had won the cup 4 years ago. Still, I could not sleep that night 😅
It was still an interesting experience, though. And I certainly never thought that I could see a World Cup match directly with my own eyes. Truly an experience of a lifetime and I am grateful for that. Although if I am being honest, I enjoyed watching in front of the TV more, actually. I could really see who was currently dribbling the ball, you know, close-up, and it was less noisy (most of the time it would be me making the noise 🙈).
So the million dollar question then: who do you think will win this year’s World Cup? 🤔