About one million people travel to FIFA World Cup host countries, and during the last World Cup in Brazil, a total of 3.43 million people watched the 64 games live in the stadium, with the average turnout per match being 53,592, the highest average since the 1994 World Cup in the US. For many of us, this anticipated international quadrennial event is often something to catch on television with family and friends, but would being one of those who watch the matches live at the stadium be within reach? SANDRA WEKESA and MANUEL NTOYAI write
The biggest sports carnival is about to begin in Russia, in the name of the FIFA World Cup 2018. The much-anticipated event begins in June and ends in July.
The 21st FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia and for Kenya, it is a blessing, because as many a football fan around the world may attest, waking up in the wee hours just to watch your favourite team get thrashed or stuck is not the best feeling.
Some Russian regions and Kenya are on the same time zone. The last time the event was held was four years ago, and it was in Brazil. The South American nation is six hours behind, and it was indeed a struggle for many Kenyan fans to catch some games.
However, you can probably view the games live, if you plan well, so what would it be like to head to this year’s host country in Europe?
What to expect
James Waindi, PD Sports Editor, attended the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010, and says the experience is more or less the same despite the country.
“Since the fans come from across the world, the country might feel a bit insecure, and definitely, the host nation tries to boost security, to at least get to control the multitudes of people flocking in,” he says.
Some of the tips he shares with fans who plan to attend the quadrennial event include having on them a universally recognised currency such as the dollar, to avoid getting stranded upon arrival at the host country.
“When I got to South Africa, the first thing in mind was converting my money to the rand. Luckily, I had a few dollars in my pocket, so converting cash was easier,” he recalls, adding that it can be about a month-long stay, so one should ensure they’re well covered, from food to accommodation, tickets and others.
It may be a good idea to enlist the services of a travel agency offering packages to the international event, as they may be better informed on how to go about things.
Bunson Travels is a sales agent of MATCH Hospitality in Kenya for the sale of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Official Hospitality Programme. MATCH Hospitality, which is responsible for the operation of the FIFA Hospitality Programme, offers sports events worldwide access to customers wishing to purchase hospitality products, and delivers the catering and production elements at major events.
Bunson Travels managing director Julie Scott says MATCH Hospitality World Cup ticket at this moment plays visa to Russia. Your ticket becomes your FAN ID and provides visa-free entry to Russia for foreign citizens who have purchased 2018 FIFA match tickets.
The FAN ID is an identification document required by the Russian authorities. All fans headed for games in Russia need a FAN ID together with a valid match ticket in order to enter the stadiums hosting games.
“Fans will be able to enter and remain in the country during the period that starts 10 days before the first match and ends 10 days after the last match of the World Cup,” explains Julie.
The agency has three packages ranging from $2,525 (Sh253,495), and the prices include daily breakfast, match ticket, buffet catering, drinks and return economy flight ticket. “It’s best to book early, because with time, prices tend to hike, which will eventually affect the amount of money you spend as the day draws closer,” she adds.
The FAN ID also entitles holders to use certain free transport services, including inter-city trains and public transport in the host cities upon presentation of the FAN ID card and a 2018 FIFA World Cup match ticket.
Russia is the largest country in the world by area, and will host the event in 11 cities and 12 venues.Travelling plans should be top notch, given the fact that navigating the nation might be a daunting task.
From reviews online and videos posted on YouTube, Russians are not considered the best drivers, and one of the biggest problems one might encounter is crazy traffic jams, which could get worse given that one million international fans are expected to visit Russia for the World Cup, now that the country has done away with visas so long as visitors have a valid FAN ID.
Fans will be allowed to enter the stadium three hours before a match, and those driving will be able to access the parking areas four hours prior to the game. It’s advisable to carry your passport wherever you go, for security purposes.
Both the opening and final matches will be held at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, the largest in Russia. Here is the list of host cities, stadiums, and their respective capacities; Moscow: Luzhniki Stadium, capacity 81,000 and Otkritie Arena (Spartak Stadium) capacity 45,360 Saint Petersburg: Krestovsky Stadium, capacity 68,134 Kazan: Kazan Arena, capacity 45,379 Samara: Cosmos Arena, capacity 44,918 Saransk: Mordovia Arena, capacity 44,442 Rostov-on-Don: Rostov Arena, capacity 45,000 Sochi: Fisht Olympic Stadium, capacity 47,659 Yekaterinburg: Central Stadium, capacity 35,696 Volgograd: Volgograd Arena, capacity 45,568 Nizhny Novgorod: Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, capacity 44,899 Kaliningrad: Kaliningrad Stadium, capacity 35,312.
Outside the stadium
Given the scale of Russia and other factors unique to the country, it’s a great destination for travel enthusiasts. You can opt to ride the rails (Trans-Siberian Railway), one of the world’s famous train journeys, or cruise on The Volga, which is Europe’s longest river. Cruise companies are most likely waiting with open arms for the thousands of tourists expected in the country.
Some cities are iconic, and if you are planning to visit Russia for the World Cup, St Petersburg (Russia’s second largest city) or Moscow, the country’s capital, are both rich in history from the 17th century; stories about Peter the Great, to the current world top political echelons. While in St Petersburg, you might be interested in visiting the Hermitage Museum, which was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great acquired an impressive collection of paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky.
It has been open to the public since 1852 and comprises of more than three million items on display, though some are not on permanent display. Other than being a destination for literary enthusiasts, the diverse landscape offers many possibilities for thrill seekers too. It is also a great place for gastronomic exploration, given the country’s diverse culture.
Russia is also world renown as home to Vodka, and for partakers, you may want to have a taste of the original distilled beverage at the home turf, as part of your travel experience. The strongest Vodka is known as Spirytus Rektyfikowany.
This Polish drink has 96 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV) and a top class rectified 192 Proof Vodka. Most Vodkas on sale in Kenya have 40 per cent ABV. According to Bunson Travel, the European country is also a heaven for shopping, nightlife, art and caviar. The country is said to produce some of the best of this delicacy in the world.
Facts about Russia
1. The world’s longest railway, The Trans-Siberian Railway, spans almost all the way across the country, making it the single longest railway in the world. If you were to travel non-stop, it would take you 152 hours and 27 minutes to complete the 9,200 kilometers of rail.
2. If you are into fast food, then good news is that the world’s biggest McDonald’s, with a capacity of 700 seats, is located in Russia,.
3. The ratio between women and men: there are more than nine million women more than men. This has been attributed to the Second World War, where many men died. Again, Russian women have a life expectancy of 74 years compared to 64 years for men.
4. The total Russian population is estimated at 142,500,482, with approximately 73.8 per cent of the population living in urban centres.
5. There are nine time zones across Russia. The country is permanently on daylight saving time.
6. Moscow, the capital city of Russia, is home to 78 billionaires, the most of any other city in the world.
7. Beer was not considered an alcoholic beverage in Russia until 2013, and until 2011, anything with less than 10 per cent alcohol was considered a foodstuff – and not alcohol.
8. Russia has more than 8,400 nuclear weapons, which is more than any other country in the world has.
9. When giving flowers, Russians always buy an odd number. An even number of flowers is only given at a funeral.
10. Russia shares a border with 14 countries; Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, China, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and North Korea. No other country has as many borders.