An African in Moscow: FIFA World Cup blog | Africa | DW | 20.06.2018
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FIFA World Cup

An African in Moscow: FIFA World Cup blog

Samson Omale is among the many journalists from all over the world covering the 2018 FIFA World Cup. He'll be sending regular blog entries and sharing his thoughts about the action on and off the pitch.

The stories about how Russia is a closed society, hostile to visitors – particularly Africans — in addition to concerns about the weather and possibly freezing temperatures, even during summer, were part of the more negative information at my disposal as I embarked on my trip to Moscow.

As a journalist covering the World Cup for the first time, I had my expectations, fears and uncertainties, especially when the travel advisory indicates that you have to be extra careful with your personal security. So six days after arriving, how have I fared?

Well, I have decided to take each day as an adventure, determined to explore my new environment and certainly make the most of my time here.

The new guy in town

Settling down in a new country where you have no friends, family or guide, means you need to keep your eyes open for risks and situations that could be frustrating and depressing.

In my own case, it was the taxi driver who took advantage of my naivety to swindle me out of my hard-earned cash. He took $200 (€173) for a trip that would normally have cost $15. When I later discovered alternative ways of travelling, I promised myself never to be beaten twice.

But sadly this morning the bus conductor made me pay 100 rubles ($1.57/€1.36)) for a trip from my apartment to the stadium, claiming my media accreditation did not include travel to the part of Moscow where I was staying. I later found out that was not true.

Culture shock

Education is priceless. That is why people go to school to acquire knowledge, to be equipped to face life's challenges. But Russia is a bigger challenge than most. Most of the signs here are written in Russian with few translations in English. From the metro station to the supermarket or to restaurants you are confronted with a communication gap. This can easily leave you stranded. 

Unlike other parts of the world which I have visited, the people here are quick to tell you, "No English!" but are willing to passionately speak Russian to you. Unfortunately the Russian language is written in the Cyrillic alphabet which further complicates the matter.

The language barrier is indeed a big challenge here.

Two Mexico fans, dressed in colorful costumes (Reuters/K. Pfaffenbach)

Mexico's fans are amongst the most colorful

One thing I have quickly come to enjoy about Russia is meeting some of the fans who have come from all over the world, many in colorful costumes, to support their various teams.

It's interesting to see how easily fans from one place connect with others. Spotting the jersey of a rival team can mark the beginning of a friendship, while opposing interests are clearly defined.

I will not forget the Mexico vs. Germany game where fans from Mexico wore stylish hats and gowns and brought a carnival-like atmosphere to the famous Luzhniki Stadium.

The German fans, who were quite conservative with their emotions, seemed to relish the beautiful display put up by the South Americans.

Nigerian team photo (Getty Images/J. Finney)

After going down to Croatia, Nigera are determined to notch up three points in their next game against Iceland

Poor start for African teams

Sad to say, four of the five African representatives at the World Cup lost their opening matches.

This became a major issue for me in the last few days because journalists from other parts of the world would walk up to me, trying to find out why these African teams are performing so badly. But then along came Senegal and the picture suddenly changed for the better.

I plan to take an in-depth view of the African teams' performances and prospects in my next blog.

 Until then, it's bye from me - from Russia with love!

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