England fan Kunal Sapat heads back to Moscow following a whistle-stop trip back home

Three Lions fan Kunal Sapat, from Pinner, has been following England around Russia at the World Cup and provides his latest diary piece following his return to Moscow for the semi-final

Wednesday 11 Jul 2018
We met Gareth Southgate in the stadium in Samara...or was it really him...?

We are in the World Cup semi-finals! Yes that’s right. ENGLAND in the World Cup semi-finals.

As I write this, I am currently on board a flight from London to Helsinki from where I will get a connection to Moscow, taking my tally of flights during this world cup to 17!

I am still on a buzz from Saturday’s game in Samara. I returned home for a few days after the win against Sweden and went back to work again for a couple of days, doing what I needed to I suppose. But I couldn’t wait to get back out to Moscow.

Our view from the seats in Samara as the lads celebrate the win over Sweden

Prior to my latest Russian trip, I had thoroughly enjoyed every city that I have been to as part of this World Cup journey.

Samara, the latest place we visited was brilliant. We enjoyed a few days on the beach and a relaxed approach to the build up. We stayed in a hostel which was about a 20-minute walk from the beach, which was quite convenient and had a nice cafe/bar next to where we were staying which was also useful.

When game day arrived, we started off fairly early on and headed into the city centre of Samara where we were meeting other fellow England fans.

The sun was out, drinks were flowing and we were quietly confident about the game ahead. We decided to make our way to the stadium a few hours before the game via the shuttles that had been put on to get us there.

What we didn’t expect was the duration of time it would take to get to the stadium from the city centre. It had seemed to take forever and furthermore, once we got off the shuttles, we still had a long walk to get to our entrances.

We finally got inside 45 minutes before kick off. Luckily, me and my mate still had enough space to put our flags up. Having had our flags up for every other match so far, we were glad we didn’t miss out this time.

As the game kicked-off, I started to get nervous, even though I had been confident earlier. However, this was soon settled when we scored our first goal. It was a relief as well as joy.

During the second half we bumped in Gareth Southgate in our end of the ground. Siitting amongst us fans....this was brilliant!

We had a great time in Samara and met some Sweden fans in a like-minded mood

....Well it wasn’t actually Gareth, but another supporter who was dressed like Gareth and looked just like him. We had even bumped into the Southgate lookalike the night before in a bar so we weren’t surprised to see him here. Surely this was a good omen for the game.

As soon as the second goal went in the celebrations went wild. Much like they had done against Colombia in the round of 16 match. Full time came and we were in the semi-finals. I couldn’t believe it.

We headed back into town to watch the other quarter final match. Every place we went to was busy with locals as Russia were playing and there was a real party atmosphere.

Russia lost, which meant we would face Croatia in the semi-final. Despite their loss, many of the locals around us were still in an upbeat mood. Others were somewhat subdued. Regardless of this, we carried on our party. England being in the semi-finals certainly deserved a proper celebration and we did that.

I had an early flight to catch the next morning to Moscow from Samara, and then further flights to get back home. My solution was to simply not sleep and carry on with the celebration until I had to go to the airport.

As we await the big game against Croatia, I am hoping there are plenty of more celebrations to come. We are so close...we can do it.

If you fancy joining Kunal and all the other England fans out in Russia for the next tournament, then start your Three Lions journey by joining the England Supporters Club. It's completely free to join and you'll receive ticket priority and special offers. 

By Kunal Sapat England fan in Moscow