August was a quiet month for me, most students were still away, there were just a handful of individual students still having lessons, I did a few clubs and camps as the school tried to generate business in other ways. Peter went to Skazka camp but apart from one trip Wesley made to Volzhsky, we did not cover any of his lessons.
It was very hot the first week after I came back – 40 degrees every day. In the flat my air conditioning was permanently on. At times walking down the street felt like walking through a sauna, the hot air felt thick but also comforting, wrapping itself round you like a blanket.
We have a new International Department liaison officer, Julia, and in one of her emails about my schedule, she told me about a football match that was taking place to celebrate the opening of a new community stadium. Wesley couldn’t go as he had a lesson, and Peter was at Skazka, but I was free to go if I wished. She gave me a contact name and number but I’ve no idea who it was, or if he even spoke English. She didn’t say which football teams were involved.
The stadium was in Sovetskiy Rayon, just a couple of stops before the Sovetskiy office so it was easy enough to get to. I arrived about 30 minutes before kick-off. I just showed up on my own, I figured if I saw anyone from the school I could join up with them, and if not I could just watch the match on my own.
The stadium was pretty much just a football pitch surrounded by a high fence – more to stop footballs escaping than to keep people out, as the gates were open and at the other end, there were no fences and it was open to the street. There was a small church close to the football ground, and at the far end were a couple of newly built buildings – changing rooms and facilities.
The stadium had a name – I had been told this in the email but it was confirmed when I saw it in big letters on the wall – Neftyanik. When I arrived there were groups of children playing on the pitch around the goals. I made my way around the pitch to the stand – basically one brick building with 3 or 4 rows of seats on either side, where people had started gathering. I could see television cameras by the side of the pitch, probably for the local news.
Around about 5-30, kick off time, two teams emerged onto the pitch, and the coaches and substitutes made their way to the dugouts (not really dugouts, just covered seats). There was a referee and assistants too, this was an official match. One of the assistants was a lady, so sexual equality is catching on even in Russia! The kids around the goals took their cue and moved off the pitch. The seats around me started filling up.
And then the match began – the team in green and yellow against the team in blue. I sacrificed 100 roubles to the Internet gods to allow me remote access on my tablet, and was able to ascertain that the green and yellow team was called B.I.O. (I could not find any more information about them because every google-search gave me hundreds of links about ecology), and the team in blue was our own Rotor Volgograd, under the name Rotor-1. I don’t know if this means they are the first team or a reserve team, but I very much hope they are a reserve team!
Just to emphasise this is a small, community stadium, Rotor will eventually take up residence in the new stadium that has been built for the 2018 World Cup finals, and which is just about finished now. For a team that has played in the top flight, and the Champions League, this is a much more appropriate home.
Despite Rotor missing a great chance, B.I.O quickly stormed into a 3-goal lead. At half time I took a walk around the ground, realising for the first time that the surface was not grass but astroturf.
In the second half I took up position on the other side of the brick building, on the basis that B.I.O. were probably going to score most of the goals and I wanted a better view. I was correct. I heard a conversation between the referee and the cameraman – “How long?” “Two minutes!” before the match kicked off so it was clearly being broadcast live somewhere. But B.I.O. went on to win 6-0, and had one of their players sent off near the end!
So the home team didn’t win but I saw a lot of goals and it was a nice couple of hours watching my first football match in Russia. I hope I will see some more, especially when the World Cup comes next year!