In spite of all the scandals and the craziness this week, glorious football, the glue that holds this cruel world together, is managing to edge out politics and the like in Moscow.
While the die-hard fans have all decamped to the likes of Poland and Ukraine for the time being (and the Russian fans have wound up in violent conflict with the Polish fans - although if you didn’t see that one coming, you’re probably the sort of of person who’s still having an internal debate as to the possible humor value inherent in the pope’s hat), the rest of us occasionally allow ourselves a distraction from real life in the form of catching a single game on television somewhere.
Moscow, which is starting to believe in collectivism again to a certain degree, is offering three so-called major fan zones for people to enjoy the games in. This is actually the first time that such large, “civilized” (as Argumenty i Fakty newspaper called them) fan zones, which include security, have been introduced. Perhaps the most famous one - the one you don’t actually have to buy tickets for, at least not for the regular seats (VIP seats are available, of course - if there isn’t a VIP section, then by God, it will not feel like Moscow anymore) is located in Gorky Park, which was revolutionized by its new management last year. Gone are the rickety attractions and the gopniki - now this is the sort of place where normal people can congregate.
And while Euro 2012 is going on, “normal people” include football fans. Well, to a certain extent, anyway.
The truth is, I made no plans to hang out in Moscow’s fan zones, including the one at Gorky Park or, for that matter, at Luzhniki, during Russia’s games. Obviously, the opportunity to watch the game on a big screen surrounded by a bunch of people who are screaming even louder than you are, thereby making you look sane, is always fun. And in a way, I was loath to give it up.
But I knew that there was always going to be that guy. You know that guy. The one for whom the phrase “don’t be that guy” was invented. The guy who’s going to spill his beer all over you - or worse - should Russia suddenly decide to score. Or not score, for that matter. This is the guy who’s going to spoil things - and if you’re going to call him on it, he won’t only protest, he’ll call his equally charming friends to the rescue.
I may have been wrong, though, because in the summer evenings, That Guy can be encountered virtually anywhere. As is the football. Even the shashlyk place down the street from me in Novogireyevo, the sort of hang-out that is largely attended by retired alcoholics who have long crossed the line from genteel to morbid, has installed a comically small flatscreen TV on a pole sticking out of the ground.
The retirees were all crowded around it the other night - cheering, inexplicably, for Croatia over Italy (not that I mind either way - it just strikes me as interesting as to how they picked sides).
It made me wish I had gone to eat dinner in Gorky Park after all. Not because they have security guards there - but because you can meander over to the television screens, which are much bigger there.
But because I’m old and boring now, I mostly watch the Euro at home, with the sound turned way down, while the baby snuggles up next to me. It’s actually not all that boring, come to think of it. My neighbors, who can afford to be creative as they are baby-less, are hosting “football parties.” You can tell whenever a goal is scored - and you don’t have to be looking at the television.
Because neighborliness is also coming back into fashion again in Moscow, they tend to invite anyone to join them. Even people with infants. So far the baby and I have declined - but one wonders how long we can realistically hold out for.
The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Trendwatching in Russia is an extreme sport: if you’re not dodging champagne corks at weddings, you’re busy avoiding getting trampled by spike heels on public transportation. Thankfully, due to an amazing combination of masochism and bravado, I will do it for you while you read all about it from the safety of your living room.
Natalia Antonova is the deputy editor of The Moscow News. She also works as a playwright – her work has been featured at the Lyubimovka Festival in Moscow and Gogolfest in Kiev, Ukraine. She was born in Ukraine, but spent most of her life in the United States. She graduated from Duke University, where she majored in English and Slavic Literature. Before coming to Moscow, she worked in Dubai, UAE and Amman, Jordan. Her writing has been featured in The Guardian, Foreign Policy, Russia Profile, AlterNet, et al.