Ten years ago, in the summer of 2007, Ivan Pelizzoli, the former goalkeeper of Italy's Roma team joined Moscow's Lokomotiv for 3 million euro. He became the first Italian goaltender to compete in the Russian championship and played 26 games before he left the capital in 2010.
In his interview with Sputnik Italia, the shot-stopper opined that it was a different Moscow and a different country altogether. The international situation was a lot less tense, there were no sanctions in place and Italian products were easy to buy in Russian stores.
Meanwhile, such large-scale sporting events as the 2014 Sochi Olympics and 2018 FIFA World Cup were not even in the blueprint stage.
"In 2007, Russian football establishments and players only dreamt of ever hosting a world cup in their country and only planned to modernize the sporting facilities and construct new arenas," Ivan Pelizzoli recalled to Sputnik.
Among his very pleasant remembrances, the goalkeeper singled out the "huge affection of Russian fans, partially due to his Russian name." And as there are 199 days left before 11 Russian cities will host the quadrennial tournament, he said that he "had not encountered any aggression from the Russian team supporters. Lokomotiv supporters were very active on the stadium but were adequate and non-aggressive in the streets, unlike fans in Italy."
In conclusion, Ivan Pelizzoli lamented that Italy has not been qualified for the tournament and he won't have the team to cheer for, however he pointed out Moscow's "excellent night clubs" which could become great resting places for those who will come to the matches in the capital.