|Zenit celebrate their 2008 UEFA Cup final victory over Rangers|
Russia, and Russian football has been in the news in the last year because of the upcoming 2018 World Cup and the corruption scandal within FIFA, the governing body who awarded the event to Russia, in what some are saying was "questionable circumstances." Setting the FIFA politics aside, I was really excited when I learned that Zenit was playing at home while we were in St. Petersburg and that Petrovsky Stadium was just a 45 minute walk from our Airbnb apartment.
|Petrovsky Stadium seats 21,000 and is completely surrounded by water|
In order to get onto the island, fans cross one of the two bridges and then run through a gauntlet of police and security forces, no worse than at other stadiums in Europe but somehow it felt a little scarier. The KGB is now called the FSB and I wondered if, or how many, agents were part of the security detail.
|Before I got to my seat, my backpack was searched three different times.|
|Young lady who did my face painting|
|The finished product|
With that done, I took a lap around the outside of the stadium to check things out before the match. I stuck up a conversation with a group of policeman standing in front of this "paddy wagon" which looked like it was made in the 1950's. Turns out, it was made in 2006 and the driver pulled out the registration certificate to prove it. We all had a great laugh!
|Paddy Wagon waiting for customers. What year do you think it was made?|
My seat was up high in the north end so I was looking into the sun the whole match and as you can see from the pictures, I was far away from the pitch. The ticket cost 800 rubles, which a year ago would have converted to $24 but because the value of the ruble has fallen dramatically I actually paid just $12.
Not a soul around me spoke English so I for the first time ever I wasn't able to find a seat-mate who could answer my questions about their national sport. Before long, the match got underway and fans started to cheer but not like anything I've seen at matches across Europe. As the match progressed I got the impression that the crowd would have been more comfortable at a tennis match.
In the 25th minute FC Krasnodar scored to go up 1-0. Zenit stepped up their game but the Krasnodar goal keeper rose to the occasion and made some incredible saves and his offense managed to find the net again in the 49th minute so Zenit went into the locker room at the break down by two goals to none.
|Just a beautiful day for football|
|Young Zenit fans had a great day out even though their team didn't appear to show up for the match.|
Afterwards - I had read that Russia was building a new stadium in St. Petersburg for the World Cup and that made sense to me after seeing the match at Petrovsky Stadium. So two days after seeing the Zenit match I went to visit the new stadium in a huge park on Krestovsky Island. Turns out they started building Gazprom Arena 10 years ago, long before FIFA awarded Russia the World Cup which made me want to go see it even more. I wondered how could they be building a stadium for 10 years and still not have it finished.....even in Russia?
So off I went. I took the #6 trolley and then transferred to the Blue Metro Line and before long, found myself in this huge and beautiful park. At one end, about a mile from the Metro stop, I spotted the stadium - work-in-progress. It was a Monday morning and I saw actual workers and cranes at work. I've read that they expect to finish the stadium well before 2018. They say it might end-up being the most expensive stadium in the world. (With the falling value of the ruble, comparisons to US dollars is hard but I've seen estimates that it will cost in excess of $1.4 Billion which is probably on the low side.
|New home for FC Zenit after 2018 World Cup will seat 67,000 fans. Wanted: More Fans to Fill Stadium!|