Moscow, June 14: Micky Stanislav, a sexagenarian from Serbia, was happy he only had to travel three hours from Belgrade to Moscow for the FIFA World Cup 2018.
Four years ago, he had to sit through a 22-hour-long flight to Rio de Janeiro for the biggest football event in the world.
The hours saved, however, was compensated by the time Micky spent in the queue to collect his ticket for the opening match between hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in which hosts Russia trounced Middle East giants Saudi.
Micky though didn't mind the wait.
"It's the World Cup. You can't expect any less crowd here and I don't mind standing in line," the Serbian said before he was about to walk into the ticket collection centre, the queue for which stretched through the Zhitnaya Street in Moscow, about a kilometre-long.
Latin American fans were among the last few to pick up the tickets, especially the ones from Peru, who were excited to see their captain Paolo Guerrero play his first and probably last World Cup.
Right in front of the security guards, a few touts sought buyers for the opening game at the cost of $1000 for Cat 3, more than three times the price at fifa.com, the only authentic source to get your tickets. Maybe the cops did not understand their English or were just ignoring them, but the price for a Brazil game was the same $1000, ten times the FIFA price.
Would you cycle 5⃣1⃣4⃣5⃣km to cheer on your team at the #WorldCup?— FIFA World Cup 🏆 (@FIFAWorldCup) June 13, 2018
🇸🇦@SaudiNT_EN fan Fahd Al-Yahya did, and received a warm welcome from the Green Falcons 🚵♂️👏
ℹ️👉 https://t.co/jAPJ1V2n4a pic.twitter.com/87JzzZngiX
This time though, Micky did mind. "They are selling it right in the open and in front of the FIFA ticket collection centre. Psst," he remarked.
Elsewhere, many fans were turned away from the FIFA Fan Fest at Vorobyovy Gory as the fan park reached its capacity of 25,000 even before the match kick off. A lot of them tried to jump the barricades but could not manage entry as there was tight security all around the park. All of them hung around dejected.
Meanwhile at the Izmailov Beta hotel in Izmailovsky, Sambuddha Ghosh, an Indian settled in Germany, was busy giving interviews to Russia Today.
"I am obviously excited for my first World Cup," Ghosh said as his wife Katerina was busy doing her mother-in-law's nails.
"I am perhaps one of the few Indians to bring his family for the World Cup and we are watching as many as eight games. I work in Germany and that's why I'm rooting for them at the World Cup. The euphoria around the tournament is amazing and it feels like a festival here."
Russia, it appears, is truly set for a carnival. And it has even kicked off the right way with the hosts clinching three points from their first match. Let the euphoria continue.
(myKhel.com Correspondent Aravind S is in Russia, covering the event though typically from a fan's perspective).