Zenit v Liverpool "You're gonna need a bigger coat"

Posted by RedRedTom on February 16, 2013, 09:37:19 PM

I've always enjoyed reading other peoples accounts of going the match, not so much the game, but the going to it, so I thought I'd write up my own from Zenit.  Hope you enjoy it!


Part one of this write up was completed before I actually left for Russia, and since then, as we all know the experience for many, if not most of us out there was badly marred by these nutcases attacking us.  I don’t want anybody to misinterpret the tone of the way the first part (and to a lesser extent the second) are written, but you have to remember that things were a lot more lighthearted until we got to Russia.  And while this was certainly the most incident filled trip I’ve done, it wasn’t all bad, not by a long shot.  In light of the way the trip went, I’ve decided to split the write up into three – part one: the build up to the trip, part two: the first part of the trip in Russia (not to be missed, includes racist taxi drivers, others who have bottles of vodka under their seats, stolen passports, hotels refusing to let me check in, and bribes to policemen), and part three – the game and its aftermath and then trying to get out of Russia two days after having your passport nicked with Berlin Airport shut down on the way back.

Part one
It’s been a few years now since my first time watching Liverpool abroad – I’m not sure if you can count Athens as a Euro away, but if not, Inter in the San Siro isn’t a bad way to start.  Since then I’ve made it to about half of our games away in Europe – seen us win lose and draw in Spain (all in the same city), win lose and draw in Italy – visited the sunny Portuguese capital, the dreary Scottish one, and the picturesque Swiss one.  But I’ve never done a trip like this – a trip that felt like you were really following the Reds anywhere, a challenge.  My journey to Naples was like the Odyssey, but that was by choice rather than by design.  I’d missed out on Trabzon, Gomel, Moscow, Bucharest (and who remembers Rabotnitski?) – they’d all just been out of reach, not like the games concentrated around Western Europe which were all relatively simple to get to.  I felt like I was missing out, I seriously regretted not being on those trips.

Sat in Milan airport the day after the coldest ground I’d visited trying to understand the pink Italian newspaper in front of me I saw a list of the teams in the last 32, divided into group winners and runners up.  “Some good ties in there, look we could go back to Madrid, or get Inter again – that’d be sound, maybe we can finally get a German team!”  Gary and I discussed which places we’d like to visit, where we’d rather avoid (Naples), and where we would really have a nightmare with.  I, like most Liverpool fans was hoping for a draw that should see us safely through while keeping us entertained off the pitch as well, and somewhere not too expensive or cold please…  I spent a couple of happy weeks speculating until the day of the draw.

Mashing the refresh button on my phone in work when I was supposed to be looking after the restaurant is generally not considered good management, so I hid in the disabled toilet and did it in there where nobody could see me.  The BBC Sport website was infuriatingly slow to update, and at one point I lost the signal altogether.  I didn’t exit the toilet however as returning to it a few minutes later would look even more suspicious.  Then the webpage crashed and reloaded back to the main football subpage “Liverpool to face tricky Zenit tie” read the headline.  Fuck.  Zenit, one of the few teams I’d really, really wanted to avoid.  I had tentatively priced up some of the more ambitious trips, to see how wide I could push the ‘possible to attend’ window of the teams we could face, and Zenit wasn’t cheap.  It wasn’t even reasonable.  Once you factored in the visa it because downright ridiculous.

Gary confirmed to me that he wouldn’t be travelling, he, unlike me had already been to Russia once already, and with holidays rapidly diminishing unsurprisingly couldn’t justify another trip like the one he’d done a few months earlier.  Deep down I already knew I couldn’t go, but I thought I’d put on a bit of bravdo for the people at work – Tottenham supporting chefs were told “your walk-in freezer isn’t as cold as it will be when I’m in Russia” and I generally wound up the staff by telling them that I’d be off on Valentines Day, as I would be four timezones away from the restaurant (definitely the best place to spend Valentines day, if you can).  I got in touch with an old mate of mine who I’d done the majority of my early trips with, he seemed keen – and promised to get back to me before Christmas Eve.  I’d managed to find decent prices to get out there and thought he could be persuaded.  Christmas and New Year came and went and still I didn’t get any confirmation that I’d have any company, the flight prices crept up and up – until in early January I publically admitted to my mates what I’d privately known since the draw was made.  Zenit was being swerved, just like Moscow, Trabson, Gomel, all the ones that really needed you to dig deep and show your commitment.

Fast forward ten days and I’ve had a particularly long day at work.  I get home and open a beer, sit down in front of my laptop and start my usual routine of checking this website or that, emails and so on.  I am really pissed off by this day I’ve just had in work, and I’ve not eaten since lunchtime, nearly 12 hours ago.  I can feel the frustration at missing this trip building up again, and my friend Jack Daniels is whispering to me that it’s not too late.  Then bang.  Sunlight streaming through the blinds and my bank card is ominously lying next to my laptop.  I have quite a bad headache.  Also somewhere in the back of my head I remember looking at flights last night, in some last ditch desperate bid to find my way to Russia.  I open my phone and see the little facebook notification blinking at me.  A few moments later and I’m staring horrified at my own drunken facebook status, typed at 2:47am “Sometimes you just have to say fuck it and book flights to Russia.” (six people like this, none of them my boss).  And then it all comes back to me.  I open my email inbox, and there they are, among the usual bollocks from Tesco, ebay and Amazon, are unopened messages from AirBaltic, Easyjet, and Air Berlin.  I find myself grinning from ear to ear, feeling like a kid who’s just done something really irresponsible and stupid – but something that is also just plain boss.  Like robbing your Dad’s car and driving it about at high speed, if your Dad’s car was in fact a Harrier Jump Jet.

I’m obviously locked in now, flights are booked – I spoke to Matt from this very forum, we’d be on the same flight out, so we arranged to travel together, and since I am doing this trip alone, I sheepishly ask if I can tag along with him for at least some of the Russian adventure.  With an investment of over £300 in flights I now have no choice but to spend another £350 on visas, hotels, and roubles.  Throw in an extra few quid on warm clothes and this trip has cost me as much as all three previous ones I’ve done this season combined.  But I don’t give a fuck, because it’s going to be in Russia!

The next few weeks passed very, very slowly, counting the days, getting more excited as my thermal purchases arrive, and my passport comes back with my visa in it.  Nothing beats this feeling.  Off to see the mighty reds play against a gang of racist goatfuckers in the Russian winter.  Bring it on.

Parts two and three will be posted in the next couple of days.

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