Australia fans sad to be heading home after Russian delight

Russia has surprised many of the 15,000 Australian fans at the World Cup. Following the Socceroos’ group stage exit, more than one will be heading home disappointed not to have extended their stay.

Socceroos fans

Socceroos fans rue Australia's 2-0 defeat against Peru at the FIFA World Cup Source: Getty Images

The 2018 FIFA World Cup has given intrepid Australians the opportunity to see Russia beyond the daily news headlines.

For the vast majority who travelled from the other side of the world to be at FIFA’s flagship event, they have liked what they’ve found.

“Overwhelmingly the feedback of our guests has been that Russia is nothing like their expectations,” says Michael Edgley, director of fan travel group the Green and Gold Army

“Those expectations had been determined by Western media coverage of Russia – not very glowing coverage – and every guest I have spoken to can’t believe how different it has been,” he continues.

“How wonderfully friendly people are, the rich the culture and history – everyone has had a fantastic experience,” says Edgley.

“Guests will go home and talk glowingly of Russia as a tourist destination, let alone the football.”

Edgley – whose fan group has brought 800 Australians to Russia – said that the Socceroos’ base had emerged as the favourite city among his travelling contingent.

“All cities have been great, but I think Kazan really did surprise people,” he says. “They had a wonderful time – so much to see and do.

Socceroos fans

He also praised the hosts.

“From my perspective Russia has been more organised than Brazil,” he says.

“The Russian authorities, the local organising committee and all the host cities have done wonderful jobs.”           

Blake from Perth is traveling independently with several friends after “the circumstances just aligned".

“We had such a good time in Brazil,” he says at a pub in Sochi. “I also really don’t like the idea of Qatar and had doubts about where the 2026 World Cup would be, so viewed this as my last ‘while I’m young’ opportunity.”

Blake has based himself in Moscow and is seeing 17 matches across seven host cities during the tournament.

“There is this perception that Russia is a huge country and everything is spread out,” he says. “But when we looked more closely every host city is within a 2.5 hour flight from Moscow.”

Socceroos fans

Having travelled to Russia last year, Blake suggests that the present trip has been easier.

“I was here for the Confederations Cup and the challenges this time have been less than the first time around,” he says.

Language has been a major barrier for Australians.

But Nick, also from Perth, has taken it in his stride.

“There have been a few difficulties,” he says. “The communication between us and the Russians is not so good, I couldnot speak a word of their language initially, but I am picking up a few things!”                                               

Blake and Nick have also found fans of all nationalities willing to bond regardless of nationality.

“It has been great, mingling with fans from around the world,” says Blake. “Everyone is keen to have a drink, even if you cannot really communicate with them!”

Australia is not the only country to have sent a large and colourful following to the World Cup.

Peru Fans

Peruvians have made headlines for the lengths they have gone to get to Russia.

One reportedly put on over 20 kilograms to access tickets reserved for disabled fans.

Another sold their house to fund the trip.

“It is been great,” Jesus from Lima reflected on his trip (prior to Australia v Peru). “Although a little sad! My team has played very well but they have not been able to get the ball in the goal – that sucks.”

Jesus’s trip began in Moscow before taking him to Saransk, Ekaterinburg and finally Sochi.

“There have been a few bureaucratic hurdles, but the people here are very nice,” he says.

“It is cool to be with a lot of people from so many countries and cultures.

Peru Fans

Fans of La Blanquirroja have been among the most boisterous at the tournament, and Jesus admits pride in the dedication of his fellow countrymen and women.

“When I left from Peru I knew there would be a lot of Peruvian fans here, but I could never imagine the actual numbers,” he says.

The majority of Australian and Peruvian fans will trickle home in the coming days after their respective teams were knocked out of the tournament.

They have left a mark on Russia, and Russia – and Russians – have left a mark on them.

“The idea of Russia as being closed to foreigners – I do not think that is true,” says Nick. “Everyone has been very welcoming.”

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Have a story or comment? Contact Us

Watch the FIFA World Cup, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Vuelta a España, Dakar Rally, World Athletics / ISU Championships (and more) via SBS On Demand – your free live streaming and catch-up service.
Watch nowOn Demand
Follow SBS Sport
5 min read
Published 27 June 2018 at 9:28am
By Kieran Pender in Sochi