By Priyansh Jul. 16, 2018
In the headiness of the World Cup, it became difficult to keep up with the calendar. It was easier to recall that you met someone when Croatia played Nigeria, or the meal you had when France escaped Peru. The trouble for us, who degenerated into this new system of date-keeping is that the World Cup has come to an end.
Where does the hangover rest? The heavy eyes must carry them. The morning after, droopy eyelids limited peripheral vision. But it took little for them to run over the Tverskaya Ploshchad in Moscow. A popular avenue which had let the World Cup festivities stamp all over with impunity. Fatigue washed over the place now; the party, it seemed, had lasted just a little longer than anticipated.
The odd French fan still wandered, wondering if there was some celebration that called. The red and white of Croatia made a more frequent appearance, but the popular jersey was heavy for some supporters. The disappointment of defeat in the final was writ large, the eyes still sore from reflecting on the failure. But thankfully, most of the Croatian fans chose to be cheery. After all, this World Cup had given them memories they did not foresee – much like many others who arrived in Russia with expectations obscured.
The World Cup, though, is a zorb ball, allowing you to bounce from place to place without any hard landings. There were fears that the plastic might burst or the ball may gather a momentum of its own to carry you astray – but those remained unfounded.
For this was a zorb ball like any other; the World Cup too important an occasion to cause inconvenience. You could frolic within, closeted away from questions far more vexing than whether Paul Pogba should play in a double pivot (not to say the two issues are entirely separate)? But the World Cup usually presents a chimeric reality. The zorb ball’s powers are such that it can obscure your vision by tumbling you when you feel you can hold your bearings; it also blurs by moving too fast when you would rather stop and ponder.
So, the World Cup-themed zorb ball rolled on.
On Sunday, we were introduced to a different form of spheres — 11 in all, for each host city — at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, as the tournament’s official end appeared in sight. This was a prop in the closing ceremony held on a blue carpet. LED panels morphed from countdown timers to highlight reels with dusk lingering in the background. The mosaic-like screen represented what remained of this tournament and the little time that was left before the whole show would be packed up.
As I walked on the streets of Moscow on Monday, the pangs of separation were palpable. Image Credits: Getty Images
As I walked on the streets of Moscow on Monday, the pangs of separation were palpable.
Image Credits: Getty Images
But the yearning to stretch out the festivities remained. As dancers performed to the popular song “Moscow Never Sleeps,” recent visions of the Russian capital were revived. Over the past month, squares in the city have become ready sites for congregations at the oddest of hours. The bemused faces of the city’s residents upon seeing so many people together suggest a surprise at the incessant merry-making.
But in this insistence to celebrate, conventions are broken. Time and again, people seemed to lose track of their days.
“Today’s Monday, right?”
“No, it’s a Saturday.”
“Oh! It feels like a Tuesday.”
For those who extended their visit to Russia from days into weeks, it became incomprehensibly difficult to keep up with the calendar. It was easier, though, to recall that you met someone when Croatia played Nigeria, or the meal you had when France escaped the dangerous Peru.
Places that do not usually figure on the list of tourist attractions, even though there now exist hotels which far outstrip the demand.
The trouble for those who degenerated into this new system of date-keeping is that the World Cup has come to an end. Today is Monday, the day when nobody plays nobody. How unremarkable!
Your free metro ride pass has run out too, so now you must buy one.
You want to visit Saint Petersburg? Well, the “Transport 2018” website is of no help anymore.
On the upside, at least visiting fans will have a free visa until the end of the year. But the frenzy of the tournament would have left long ago, even if you were to return. But can a World Cup host ever move away from the shadow of the tournament? Particularly, a country which spent 11 billion USD to welcome the show.
Perhaps not. But beyond obvious venues like Moscow and Saint Petersburg, there were cities like Saransk, Yekaterinburg, and Kaliningrad. Places that do not usually figure on the list of tourist attractions, even though there now exist hotels which far outstrip the demand. Not to forget, the stadiums that bear silent testimony to their hazy futures.
The bigger cities will cope better with the departure of the World Cup, even as they are stripped of the shadow that has covered them for some time now. But as I walked on the streets of Moscow on Monday, the pangs of separation were palpable. The busiest point of the city is no longer its football stadium or the fan fest, rather it is the airports that are brimming with people who are now headed towards a new distraction. The iconography and the banners will be stripped away gradually as Russia also learns to seek different preoccupations. Sadly, a football match will not be a part of that list for a while.
The World Cup must really be over.
Priyansh is an independent writer in New Delhi, looking for the intersections between sport, politics, and culture. His keen interest in sociology comes handy. When not working, he is busy preparing himself to work. He tweets @Privaricate.