x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Lack of TV, late-night timings don’t deter Russian fans from catching World Cup matches

The timings of games in Brazil could pose some problems to fans in the UAE, with late kick offs and some of the games falling during Ramadan.

Russians Sofia Buriansk, left, Nazar Abdulkhanov and Polina Sandalova at their Dudu office in Media City, Dubai. One of them isn’t cheering for the home team. Jaime Puebla / The National
Russians Sofia Buriansk, left, Nazar Abdulkhanov and Polina Sandalova at their Dudu office in Media City, Dubai. One of them isn’t cheering for the home team. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // It doesn’t matter if you follow football fanatically or not at all, when the World Cup comes around, you live, eat and breathe the beautiful game.

“It’s the World Cup, of course I’m going to watch it no matter what time the games are,” said Sofia Buriansk, 47, who works for the real-estate section of Dudu social network. “But I don’t support Russia, I support Germany, that is my team.”

The comment drew surprised gasps from her colleague and compatriot Polina Sandalova, 26, who will be supporting her homeland.

“Of course I will support Russia. We should all stay strong and support our country, Russia will win and I will be positive until the end. And then I will support Brazil!”

The timings of games in Brazil could pose some problems to fans in the UAE, with late kick offs and some of the games falling during Ramadan.

“We want to get together and support our country, but the timing will be a bit difficult,” said Ms Sandalova. “The games will kick off around midnight and some of them will be during Ramadan. We want to go to a restaurant to watch them, but I think we will watch them at home and have friends gather, probably at a different friend’s house each night.”

Ms Sandalova remembers watching the 2006 World Cup at home in Russia and the excitement that filled the country.

“Nobody slept the nights Russia played. All the light were on in all the buildings in the neighbourhood. When a goal was scored you could hear the cheers and screams all over town. It was really exciting and motivates you to support the country, there was really no choice but to follow it.”

She added that her brother-in-law was supporting another country, so the family kicked him out.

“I had just moved when the last World Cup [2010] was going on so I didn’t have the satellite installed,” said Ms Buriansk. “I sat in the balcony and noticed in the buildings adjacent to me I could watch the games through other people’s windows. It was great I didn’t get sound but almost every window you could watch the game. I didn’t need to pay for the channels or anything.”

For 21 year-old Nazar Abdulkhanov and his friends, each game has its own ritual.

“We will all get together and simulate every game on Fifa for the Play Station 3. Then after the game we sit and argue about what will happen, then we watch the real game live and see who was right.”

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In group H, Russia’s first match will be against South Korea on Wednesday early morning. “I think we will well this year, we have a good team and good coach, but mostly because our group is not too tough. I think we will beat Korea 2-0,” said Mr Abdulkhanov.

“Belgium is the toughest in our group. They have a young team which is strong and many of their players are in top European clubs,” said Mr Adulkhanov.

He said he got a chance to watch his national team play an international game in Dubai, but was very disappointed. “I saw Russia take on Serbia, here. But it was a very boring match, I left after the first half. Russia won, but it wasn’t a good game, I’m looking forward to better performance in the World Cup.”

Ms Sandoval also got to see Russia play in Abu Dhabi when they faced Iran, but again her experience wasn’t any better. “I won tickets to see the match and I was so excited, but when we got there we realized our seats were on the Iran side of the stadium. We couldn’t cheer for our team, we were surrounded by Iranian fans, so we just sat there quietly and watch Russia lose.”

malkhan@thenational.ae