Football, as the popular notion goes, is not just a sport. It is a cocktail of hopes and dreams, flukes and accidents, disappointments and betrayals. Football has the power to consume nations. Who can forget Diego Maradona’s 1986 “Hand of God” goal, which spurred Argentina’s victory over England, and was savoured as the healing revenge for Argentina’s defeat at the hands of Britain in the Falklands War just four years before? Or Zinédine Zidane’s infamous headbutt in 2006 that arguably cost France the World Cup to Italy? Travelling to the World Cup is a chance to earn all the bragging rights with three simple words, “I was there.”
If the World Cup isn’t on your bucket list, it should be. No number of action replays on the television can replace the feeling of an electrified stadium reverberating with cheers. Even a slow game can turn at a moment’s notice. Remember the Brazil 2014 Final between Germany and Argentina when both sides held out so strongly that it looked like only a penalty shoot-out could settle that contest? Then came Mario Goetze in the 113th minute with a surgical volley that sneaked past Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero. The crowd erupted and it sent German Chancellor Angela Merkel into the air with her arms raised high. You can never be too big or too composed for this sport.
What happens outside the stadium is as memorable as what happens inside. When you travel for a World Cup, you join a tight community of fans that flourishes both inside and outside the official venues. FIFA sets up “Fan Fests” or public areas where fans can come together to view matches on big screens for free while enjoying local food and drinks. Here, strangers become friends and friends become family. You may not always agree on which side to support but you understand the highs and lows that everyone experiences. There is camaraderie in the hugs you share and tears you wipe. Football creates conversations between people who wouldn’t ordinarily meet, let alone share a beer to either celebrate victory or forget defeat. By bringing together people from all over the globe, football chips away the barriers of nationality, ethnicity, class, and race. It may just be the glue we have all been looking for in our fraught world.
Even if you don’t care much for football, the World Cup is a chance to experience another country at its most enterprising moment. For the duration of the World Cup, landmarks, shops, bars, and restaurants make special arrangements to welcome you into a world of Instagrammable moments. The attention to detail makes the place seem less chaotic even with the influx of thousands of tourists. When else will you have access to hundreds of dedicated volunteers who can give directions, share shopping tips, and tell you what their favourite local haunts are?
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags for Russia this summer for FIFA World Cup 2018, from 14 June to 15 July. You might just end up witnessing a game as exhilarating as Germany’s hammering of Brazil with a 7-1 score in Brazil 2014, a final as nail-biting as the penalty shoot-out between France and Italy in Germany 2006, or a moment as insane as Uruguay’s Luis Suarez delivering an unexpected bite to Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder in Brazil 2014.
Russia is hosting FIFA World Cup 2018 from 14 June to 15 July across 11 cities: Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Saransk, Sochi, Volgograd, and Yekaterinburg. Four types of tickets will be available: match-specific, team-specific, venue-specific and supporter tickets (for group stages only). Restrictions related to the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals apply. A random selection draw window runs till 31 January, 2018. To purchase tickets, visit www.fifa.com. Details of the schedule can be found at resources.fifa.com.
To explore more of Russia, see our FIFA World Cup 2018 guide to the country here.
Aanchal Anand is a travel addict who has been to over 50 countries across 5 continents. When she isn't travelling, she is typically coaxing her two cats off the laptop keyboard so she can get some writing done.