Is there any life after WC?

Russian football legacy and not only

Is there any life after WC? Photo: Maksim Platonov

Probably the best FIFA WC in history is slowly but inevitably coming to an end. And it's time to think: is there any life after the WC? Realnoe Vremya's sports staff guesses what Russia we will have after the post-festive reality comes. Realnoe Vremya tells about Russians' increased interest in football and new mentality, new stadiums that aren't designed for the Russian Football Premier League and the football players who made peace with fans.

Did we already have it?

Why won't Russia be same after 15 July 2018? No, not only because VAT will rise and Russians will continue working to their dying day but also because feelings for their own national football team have revived for the first time in 10 years.

Jokes about the disability of the Russian team doesn't sound from every yard any more, while some jokers 'pray for forgiveness'. During Cherchesov's team's games, the fan festivals were stuffed to the gills, while the football players didn't rush to drink champagne to Monte Carlo but arrived in Moscow to declare love to their fans. And the latter are saying now Russia has a national team it didn't have before the WC.

Even Artyom Dzyuba whom fans don't like much, to put it mildly, has shown he's quite a humane football player who does the best for his business. ''We're sad, destroyed but incredibly proud and don't look down, we've been proud of each other first for a long time. We are very happy we could, maybe not completely, show our best qualities, become one team, one entity. It means a lot. In this tournament, our team has grown up and grown into a strong bold family that wasn't afraid of anybody, respected everybody and was dreaming of making a miracle, history. But football is such a thing, we should accept it,'' said Dzyuba on Sparrow Hills the following day after the departure.

Even Artyom Dzyuba whom fans don't like much, to put it mildly, has shown he's quite a humane football player who does the best for his business. Photo: twitter.com/teamrussia

''It's pleasant to observe your reaction in Moscow and other cities. We're happy to have felt these emotions with you,'' Sergey Ignashevich who has completed his career in the national team joined Artyom.

Even Fyodor Smolov was touched and admitted Russian fans won his heart: ''I had tears yesterday, it's hard to say if it was tears of defeat or happiness, but the festivity has been a success. If I were you, I'd feel the same thing. Thanks for supporting! I'm happy to be a citizen of Russia. Nobody in the world has the soul our citizens have.'' In answer to the football players' words, the fans shouted 'Thanks!' and 'Russia!', and then the team and fans sang the national anthem together.

It seems everything looks quite nice and even resembles an end of some sports drama with a happy end. But we already had it and saw how fast the football fever, popular love and the Russian players' friendly (not typical arrogance) attitude to their fans disappear. Does everybody remember ''Your expectations are your problems''? That's it.

The Euro in 2008 ended with a bronze medal for the national team of Russia under Guus Hiddink. And broadly speaking, the team played even in a brighter and more interesting way 10 years ago than now. The talks about where unstoppable Andrey Arshavin, powerful Roman Pavlyuchenko and fast winger Yury Zhirkov would play began in the Russian press before the semi-final against the Spaniards. It's true, English clubs grabbed the leaders. But their era in Foggy Albion was short, and just Arshavin and partly Pavlyuchenko's stage of career can be called successful.

We wouldn't like the story to repeat. However, let's write from the beginning what the main differences from the current situation from the ten-year-old story are.

Our people have seen how they can and should enjoy football even if its quality isn't the highest one. Photo: Maksim Platonov

Russian mentality's upgrade

Firstly, the mentality of backwater Russians (in host cities) has seriously globalised after the WC, so the population of the country has become at least a bit more open and more communicative. Famous TV host born in Kazan Irina Shadrina told about it to our newspaper.

''In terms of importance, the FIFA WC has even left the Winter Olympics in Sochi behind to a certain degree. It seems almost all the citizens of our country will feel the cup's legacy. And I'm not talking about the stadiums, road and other infrastructure. Russians believed not only in the national team but also in themselves. I don't remember such an open, bright, friendly atmosphere in the street. We can only thank all the organisers and officials of the country for having defended the right to host the WC despite all the difficulties and did it at an exorbitantly high level,'' told Shadrina to Realnoe Vremya.

Let's omit the stories with Russian girls' 'hunt' for foreign football fans, let's talk about only the real international experience. Our people have seen how they can and should enjoy football even if its quality isn't the highest one. Russians have shown their deep-rooted sincere smiles. The 'aborigines' have also practised languages. Even if the average Russian learnt by heart 'London is the capital of…' at school, his English simply was covered with moss in the following years and needed practice.

There are still not unfounded hopes that the people who are far from football became interested in the game itself and the Russian football league will get stadiums with a higher attendance. It's good they are new.

Squad with new house, RFPL with southern stadiums

Secondly, the Russian cities, likely the RFPL, got new stadiums thanks to which the Russian league (at least visually) should become more attractive. There has been said many times how cool it is to get big stadiums with a capacity of 45,000 spectators for Rostov, Samara or Volgograd. And everybody is in a state of euphoria now, while it's +30 outside, everybody likes everything. But summer isn't long in Russia. And we will have to take our rosy glasses off when it ends.

For instance, upon a closer view of Nizhny Novgorod Arena stadium, one can see whether its construction ended in emergency mode or in the total economy regime. And the solutions the builders accepted aren't compatible with the Russian Championship, which takes place in autumn and spring. For instance, instead of the glass façade made up by the designers first, the Nizhny Novgorod stadium got a façade made of semi-transparent membranes or, as very Nizhny Novgorod citizens called, 'rags'. Considering the stadium is located in an 'arrow' – where the Oka and Volga Rivers come together –winds in autumn and winter can be cutting here. Will citizens of Nizhny Novgorod continue to go on going to the stadium that has almost lost its façade?

This also includes the stadium in Yekaterinburg, which will also reduce to 25,000 seats. The façade of Yekaterinburg Arena consists of a semi-transparent net-line coating, which doesn't protect fans' backs from winds at all. And the 'holes' that appear after dismantling temporary stands will likely remain an empty place.

Rostov, Kaliningrad, Volgograd (though the roof consists of the same membranes here) and Samara (much work on logistics wasn't done) got quality stadiums. While Fisht in Sochi, Kazan Arena, Saint Petersburg Arena were built a long time ago before the WC.

The country has finally got its main stadium – Luzhniki. It's got it back in an updated football version, so that fans won't have to follow players through the running track whose width is comparable to Kashirsky Highway. The squad, which we have got, has got its house too. And this can be an advantage of the World Cup in Russia, which is about to close.

What has Kazan got?

The third capital finished the construction of its stadium by the Universiade in 2013 as well as the powerful infrastructure. New roads, metro stations, the airport and underground pedestrian crossings appeared then too. Kazan has got a luxury view next to Tatmedia's building, Kaban Embankment and perfect road on main routes of the city's guests by the WC.

This is about the social component. As for football, an approximate development of events can be projected here according to what happened after last year's Confederations Cup ended.

The third capital finished the construction of its stadium by the Universiade in 2013. Photo: Maksim Platonov

The interest in their own club has really increased among citizens of Kazan. After the tournament, many locals purchased tickets to the first home matches of Rubin saying they couldn't watch Confederations Cup matches, they wanted to find out what was going on. So Kazan Arena was full in summer. However, we should consider the comeback of Kurban Berdyev also played its role.

Starting well and even playing interesting football, Rubin suddenly gave way by autumn when leading foreign players left the team (Jonathas was the leader in the attack and the best forward), and the Kazan players rapidly became sad on the football pitch. It also gradually affected the stands. Quickly understanding the difference of football level and the atmosphere at the stadium from the games with Chile and Portugal, the Kazan spectator lost his interest in going to Kazan Arena soon. And winter came then.

We can and want to presuppose another development of events. But judging by transfer deals and the financial situation at the club, we believe more the story will repeat.

Yes, Berdyev's second season is usually better than his debut. The specialist has worked with the team for a year, he knew every player's problems, had full-fledged camps and should prepare Rubin for the season with a better collective. However, the club hasn't got good players in the off season but lost its leaders. Ivelin Popov is back at Spartak, Rifat Zhemaletdinov is at Lokomotiv, while Cristian Noboa has gone to Zenit. The situation with the team's attacking potential is still unknown to three weeks until the beginning of the RFPL.

Is it possible to continue being interested in football in the city playing in the defence only? The question is rhetoric.

By Erik Dobrolyubov