The scene of Brazil's victory over Serbia on Wednesday night. Photo: @superjourno on Twitter
The scene of Brazil's victory over Serbia on Wednesday night. Photo: @superjourno on Twitter
IOL Sport's Mazola Molefe is in Russia to experience the tournament first-hand.
IOL Sport's Mazola Molefe is in Russia to experience the tournament first-hand.

MOSCOW – I will be honest, I don’t know any black person who spontaneously plans a trip to Russia. 

But there have been plenty doing so recently because of the World Cup here, with football’s world governing body Fifa promising to stamp out any racial discrimination this country has been so synonymous with over the years.

Some former Bafana players who spent a good couple of seasons in Moscow in the prime of their careers have different stories to share about their own individual experiences while contracted to clubs in the Premier Division.

Siyanda Xulu, although he later denied it, was reported to have made up his mind about returning home to South Africa after a racist joke from his then FC Rostov coach.

Matthew Booth, MacBeth Sibaya, the late Jacob "Bobo" Lekgetho and Japhet Zwane will all give you their personal narratives.

So, armed with all this information - and thanks to a ticket from Castle Lager - I packed my bags and headed to Moscow on Monday evening, having been invited to watch Serbia take on Brazil last night at the Spartak Stadium.

You can imagine just how alert (the lingo on black twitter is "woke") I was as I arrived at my destination having flown from Johannesburg to Dubai and then to Moscow.

I kept watch at what kind of reception black people jumping off the plane in droves with their Fan IDs got at the Domodedovo Airport.

It would be naïve of me to immediately rebuff all that I’ve heard and read about Russia, but it would be harsh to validate any of that instantly, too.
Customs officials, security checks and luggage claim stewards - all were on their best behaviour.

And then later, Africa invaded the beautiful city of Moscow.

While out for some fine dining in the build-up to the Nigeria-Argentina game at the posh Saxon and Parole restaurant, we (along with Milano FC, the winners of the Castle Africa five-a-side tournament, and several competition winners) blended in and literally took over the place.

I was more annoyed by the vuvuzelas than the locals were, the singing and cheering while being photographed by onlookers more my thing.

Sure, it was just a taste of the World Cup in Russia, a country that came under scrutiny for not wanting anything to do with those who do not look like them, not long after having to deal with the scandal and allegations that they’d given disgraced former Fifa president Sepp Blatter a briefcase full of dollar bills to host this event in 2019.

I head back home tomorrow evening, but the hope is that a few nights here will be enough for an unforgettable experience rather than Russian Roulette.

For now, I have found my old mate Philip, who shows up every four years in different countries, but I last saw him during the World Cup in 2010 in South Africa.

Molefe is in Russia courtesy of Castle Lager.



The Star

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