England fan Kunal Sapat reports back from Volgograd after Monday's win over Tunisia

Tuesday 19 Jun 2018
Kunal Sapat made the journey to Volgograd with the England Supporters Travel Club

It had finally arrived.

Monday 18 June and time for England’s World Cup campaign to get underway.

My day started early with an alarm set for 2am, for a 6am charter flight to Volgograd. Yes, it was early but I was already enthusiastic about getting out to Russia and this didn’t really bother me.

For the last few day, I had seen many pictures and feedback from friends who had already arrived in Volgograd and I was seeing what a great place it was. It was now time for me to see for myself.

We arrived around lunchtime, and were then taken by coaches to a German pub (Bamberg), where we had some food and beers waiting for us. After the long journey, the first pint certainly went down very well. I stayed there for a few beers, before I went to meet my friend who had arrived in the city the night before, after having travelled nearly two days to get there!

I met up with my friend John, shortly after lunch and as the time was getting closer and closer to kick-off, we decided that due to both of our limited time in Volgograd, we would go to visit the ‘Motherland Calls (Mamayev Kurgan)’ statue, which before this trip had been regarded as something that was a ‘must see’ in the city.

The view before the game from our seats in the stadium

We ordered a taxi via an app, but due to the language barrier and miscommunication, we had waited for our taxi, which had not arrived where we had been expecting it to. We attempted to use a combination of a local Russian and Google translate to redirect the taxi, however this proved unsuccessful.

Then we decided to take a local bus, but unfortunately ended up travelling 40 minutes in the wrong direction. We did eventually get on the correct bus going towards the stadium and the Mamayev Kurgan. We got off near the stadium and took a short walk to take in and see the famous statue of the city. Even from a distance, this looked impressive and we were glad we had taken time to visit it.

After we had taken in the sight of the stunning ‘Motherland calls’ statue, we proceeded to our gates to enter the stadium. The main issue for both me and my friend was to get both our flags inside and placed in good positions.

We managed that and then took to our seats as we waited for kick-off. As other fans started to arrive, the atmosphere and excitement started to build. However, it was noted by us that on this occasion, looking around the stadium, the Tunisians outnumbered the England support.

There were no shortage of England flags, but we were out-numbered by the Tunisians

England went 1-0 up, to spark celebrations in our end. It was no more than we deserved. We had made the perfect start.

Tunisia’s equaliser didn’t dampen our spirits and the atmosphere was excellent. Then later on when it looked like we would be starting off our campaign in Russia with a draw, we witnessed a late winner. Que wild celebrations, and bodies literally ‘flying’ everywhere in our section. This is what it meant to us to see England win and have a great start to the World Cup, and it has certainly whet our appetite for the Panama game.

I got to the airport after the match for flight back home. Back in London by 4am, and back to work by the afternoon. Tired but still re-living last night. Now I look forward to the weekend and my second trip to Russia to Nizhny Novograd.

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By Kunal Sapat England fan