A football lover’s guide to Moscow

Moscow, a city of unique and stunning architecture, defined by a mix of towers, domes and local stones

“I follow the Moskva, down to Gorky Park..”

If you have grown up in the 90s you'd be familiar with these lines from the Scorpions’ hit single ‘Winds of Change’.

I didn't know what that line meant until I came to Moscow. Moskva is a river that meanders through Moscow, and if you walk alongside it the river will lead you to Gorky Park.

After watching my first match of this World Cup in Moscow, I could not wait for June 26 to watch another fixture of this topsy-turvy tournament live from the stadium. This time, my friends and I were headed to the game between France and Denmark.

In between, we got to see plenty of Moscow. The weather, although hot when I first landed here, has turned pleasant these days and walking is the best way to see the city. We decided to follow along Moskva River towards the famous Red Square.

Moskva River, running through Moscow. Photo: Usman Iqbal

Moscow has a number of beautiful parks and stands out with its unique and stunning architecture. A mix of towers and domes and use of local stone for construction defines the city. Wide boulevards and a restriction on tall buildings make it easy to see the city. Tall, glass skyscrapers are limited to the financial district. The rest of the city feels open and welcoming.

The Cathedral of Vasily the Blessed, commonly known as Saint Basil's Cathedral, is a work of art. Legend has it that the architect of the cathedral was blinded later so he could not build anything similar to it.

Saint Basil's Cathedral, Moscow. Photo: Usman Iqbal

The Red Square houses the Kremlin, which used to be the home of kings and tsars. The streets are tastefully lit at night. Football fans from all over the world can be found here.

About the match, the less said the better. In this World Cup, almost every match has turned out to be exciting. But as fate would have it, we ended up at the most boring match of the tournament to date: France vs Denmark. Both the teams had qualified for the last 16, both did not wish to attack. The crowd was visibly irritated and started jeering and booing from the 30th minute onwards.

The Red Square at night. Photo: Usman Iqbal

There were still a few positives from the day. We got to see the Luzhniki Stadium, the national stadium of Russia, where the France vs Denmark match was held. It is twice the size of the Spartak Stadium where we watched Belgium vs Tunisia.

The match ended 0-0 and the 78,000 fans trundled back to their homes/hotels grumbling. I hope our next match is nothing like this.

But our boredom lifted as soon as we went to the fan fest to watch Argentina vs Nigeria. The Argentine fans were visibly despairing until Marcus Rojo scored the winner; after that, all we could see were hordes of fans laughing, cheering and singing out loud.

At the fan fest, surrounded by various nationalities. Photo: Usman Iqbal

I even managed to witness an open-air opera at the Bolshoi Theatre, a historic landmark dating back to 1856. I had never been to an opera before, but this show was free and an unforgettable addition to my adventures in Russia.

It was getting late, and it was time to head back to my hotel for some much-needed rest. I looked at my step counter and saw 37,000 steps on the screen. Moscow was truly worth the walk. 

-- The author is a football player for Karachi United, and loves travelling to international tournaments. Follow his travels on Instagram @ kez_minister.