5 July 2018
Beetle mania - this 50-year-old VW was shipped over from Brazil and driven across Europe to Russia!
Reporting for duty once again to let you in on the madness of this World Cup and the rollercoaster the last week has been.
The World Cup is not disappointing its global fan base and many feel that it is possibly one of the best tournaments ever.
Today I was to experience South American football at its best, as I attended a Legends event at the COMNEBOL house in Moscow. For those of you unsure want COMNEBOL means, it is the name of the continental governing body of association football in South America. The footballing elite from South America such as Diego Forlan, Javier Zanetti and Mauro Silva were invited to the event to talk about the future of football in their region.
The following of South American fans to this World Cup has been incredible and the support from the legends of the game to their federation really emphasised how much they want to improve football as a collective group.
One thing I have taken from this World Cup, is that the political landscape of football really is changing. The legends of the game who have created and inspired the history of football are working hard to create an impact for its future at events such as this and back home in their own countries.
The highlight of the event was to get some time with former Manchester United striker, Diego Forlan (above) who gave the lowdown on Argentina and his picks for the tournament. David Trezeguet, who was in attendance, began his career in Argentina at the age of 8 for Club Atlético Platense. He gave his thoughts on Anton Griezman, believing the French striker had made the right decision to stay at Atlético Madrid. The access to the players was fantastic and it was another mixed zone under our belts.
Today was finally the day England would be back in action against Panama, and so I had spring in my step as I headed over to the French Media camp for their daily press conference.
Each day at the World Cup we are hoping that the teams put forward their best players forward for interviews - sometimes they do and sometimes they don't, it is all part of the media merry-go-round.
It had not been announced prior to the event who the French player was going to be, but I could not believe my luck when I heard it was Paul Pogba. This was significant, as the midfielder had not given a press briefing for the national team in over two years!!
I have to say he was the last player I expected to speak, but there Pogba was in the flesh - and in his opening answer he even said he had missed the media! It was great to be there for this rare occasion and to see another superstar at this World Cup who appears relaxed and not phased by the pressure on him to succeed. It was quite refreshing. Paul Pogba's first press conference in two years, England beat Panama and Harry Kane became the Golden Boot front runner - what else could a girl want from a day at the World Cup?
There is never a moment to spare at the World Cup and today would be no different, with two shoots in the diary including a trip down the Moskva River. FIFA, in coordination with the Local Organising Committees, have organised a plethora of events in all of the hosts cities to give the tournament a real carnival atmosphere and bring fans together.
In Red Square there is a temporary football pitch, skills-based activities and football games to keep the fans involved. We were invited to an event where the official supporters groups were facing each other in a tournament, fans from Germany, France, Russia and Denmark were some of the few involved and so we headed down there to interview them about playing in the iconic location of Red Square and what it meant to them representing their nation in the fan tournament.
I have filmed in some weird and wonderful places over the years, but I have never had the opportunity to film football fans watching a game on water as opposed to dry land. Today would be that day, and so we headed down to the the Moskva River to get on board the Bud Boat.
Bud are the official beer of the tournament in Russia and have been organising events to showcase the matches. The boat was huge and boasted several bars, a large screen to watch the game, a hot tub and a helicopter to name a few. They were hosting Russian fans as they took on Uruguay in their last game of the group stages. It was a real party atmosphere and despite Russia losing, the fans' spirits could not be dampened. Check out my behind the scenes video by clicking on the link here.
Belgium training and press conferences were the order of business today; Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini and Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld made it a Premier League pairing to look forward to.
The way this works is that when the media are invited to a session, we can film/take pictures of the first 15 mins of training and then we get an opportunity to ask questions to the selected players at the press conference. Training sessions can often be a bit similar, same drills, warm-ups etc, but Belgium treated the media to their own ball skills challenge - and this made for video viral gold!
The whole squad lined up in two lines facing each other and they headed the ball all the way down the line until the last man, who had to get it into an open drinks cooler.
The first two attempts were unsuccessful but a shuffle round of personnel at the end of the line ensured that the ball went safely down the line and into the drinks cooler. Cue euphoric celebrations as if they had just won the World Cup!! You can see my video of the final attempt by clicking on the link here.
Match day minus 1 for Brazil meant I had to go and film the first 15 minutes of training at the Spartak Stadium. On our way out of the ground we came across a man who had shipped his car from Brazil and driven across Europe for all of their games. His story was incredible - his wife told him it was impossible for the 50 year old VW Beetle to make the journey, but here he was sat outside the Spartak Stadium hoping he would see his team win the very next evening.
The previous evening had seen Argentina dramatically head into the last 16 of the tournament with a last-gasp winner against Nigeria. Although the media focus had been dominated by Diego Maradona's behaviour and antics at the game, the event at Red Square with former Argentine legend Hernan Crepso, gave us the perfect opportunity to dissect the performance of an underwhelming Argentina side and to ask if he knew any information on Maradona's well being after he received medical treatment in the stadium during the game.
Crespo did not want to talk to much about his fellow countryman Maradona, but he did hope that Argentina could grow through the competition as a result of the way they qualified for the last 16.
The story of the day had to be the exit of the World champions Germany who lost 2-0 to South Korea and thus ended their dreams of retaining the world title. Germany had struggled from the start of the tournament, but I will never forget the bus journey as we travelled to the Spartak Stadium on the media shuttle watching the game on my phone and seeing the Germans crash out of the competition; there were a few cheers from journalists as we watched it unfold.
That evening saw Brazil take on Serbia at the Spartak Stadium where the Seleção fans outnumbered the Serbian supporters, and it was a sea of yellow both outside and inside the stadium. The atmosphere was electric and Neymar and co took to the field to secure their place in the knockout stages of the tournament. They only needed a point to qualify, and with Germany out of the tournament, Brazilian fans saw this as their opportunity to show the world they had arrived on the World Cup stage both on and off the pitch. It sounds corny, but every time I walk into the stadium I have to remind myself how lucky I am to be here experiencing these amazing events.
I am officially half way through my time here is Russia and so far it has been the most incredible journey. It is the longest work trip I have been on, but it has flown by and I can't believe we are almost done. I made my first visit to the the Argentina base camp, which is located southeast of central Moscow in the picturesque town of Bronnitsy.
Many of the South American media did not believe they would be returning there again but the football God's had other ideas and now Argentina were preparing to face France in what both teams may have hoped would be a final. The room was packed with cameras, journalists and photographers waiting to get the inside track on the mood in the camp.
That night we watched England's final group game against Belgium, we had been invited as guests to the Bud Hotel. From the roof top terrace we enjoyed the incredible views it offered of the city's skyline. Despite England losing, it was the perfect end to another great day.
From Russia with Love
* Louise Bawden, Duty Editor Omnisport (senior video journalist), is one of an exclusive band of women working for the media at the World Cup. We are delighted that Lou is sharing her experiences with Women in Football and providing a unique insight from behind-the-scenes in Russia.
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