For a 90-Minute Game, a Train Ride of 27 Hours


YEKATERINBURG, Russia — After practically 27 hours and 900 miles on a prepare from Moscow, Hans Josefsson’s pedicure remained immaculate.

Earlier than leaving Sweden 10 days earlier for the World Cup, he had his toenails painted blue and gold, the colours of the nationwide soccer group.

“An expert did it; I knew I might do plenty of strolling in these sandals,” Mr. Josefsson stated earlier than arriving right here Tuesday afternoon within the easternmost Russian metropolis through which matches are being performed.

A fellow passenger on the daylong journey, Luis Aragones, 24, an architect, had watched in Mexico Metropolis as Mexico shocked Germany, the defending champion, in its opening recreation. He had joined a delirious celebration whose mass leaping could have precipitated the equal of a minor earthquake.

Impressed, Mr. Aragones canceled plans to attend a marriage in Argentina. He bought his tv and an X-Field console, received a mortgage from his mom, purchased a one-way ticket to Moscow, stayed awake for 2 days with out a lodge room after which boarded Prepare No. 118 to Yekaterinburg on Monday. He promptly fell asleep for 10 hours.

“I simply knew I needed to be right here,” he stated.

There might not be extra exuberant and adventurous followers on the World Cup than these from Sweden and Mexico, whose groups will meet in an important match on Wednesday on this metropolis the place Europe turns into Asia. Each groups will probably be looking for to advance to the knockout part of soccer’s world championship.

About 15 to 20 followers from every group boarded a Soviet-era prepare early Monday afternoon at Kazansky Station in Moscow, using the rails as a substitute of taking a a lot shorter, and absolutely duller, airplane journey that 1000’s of their compatriots had been taking throughout the Ural Mountains.

In a cabin for 4, Patrik Brunnberg and Anton Dimitrov, each 31 and longtime pals from Stockholm, turned bunkmates by likelihood with their countrymen Claes Hedlund and Orejan Jonsson, each 59 and lecturers from Goteborg.

“Not less than they are going to be loud night breathing in Swedish,” Mr. Hedlund stated.

It was a visit for many who most popular thrift and exploration over pace and luxurious. The journey can increase to 6 days on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Beijing.

“It’s an opportunity to attempt one thing totally different,” stated Mr. Brunnberg, an IT venture supervisor. “You don’t see something while you’re flying.”

The employees aboard Prepare No. 118 was affected person and solicitous. The cabins had been fundamental however clear and comfy, although typically scorching. Safety guards patrolled the slim aisles unobtrusively however carried batons and handcuffs.

The World Cup passengers had been pleasant and united by their widespread sporting ardour. However a lot to the shock of some as dinnertime approached on Monday, the prepare lacked even a eating automotive, a lot much less entry to the web.

“We thought we’d have a giant celebration, with a restaurant and a bar the place they’d be taking part in music and dancing,” stated Oscar Bonfil, 45, a local of Mexico Metropolis who’s a grocery store govt in Lima, Peru. “It’s type of boring.”

The issue, defined Aleksandra Popova, an attendant working her maiden journey, is that so many trains are headed south from Moscow in the course of the World Cup and household holidays. Because of this, some eastbound trains are left with out sure facilities. Particularly, eating places.

That didn’t appear to hinder 9 Swedish supporters in automotive No. 13. They introduced their very own celebration and restaurant on the journey. Their lubricated intent was inscribed on one fan’s T-shirt: “Beer, please.”

“No drink!” an attendant within the automotive admonished the group, however this gave the impression to be extra of a suggestion than a tough and quick rule.

Sure drinks stronger than water had been carried in plastic luggage, together with orange juice that was not technically being administered for its abundance of vitamin C.

“It’s an extended journey; you’ve received to remain hydrated,” stated Mr. Brunnberg, who later detected in himself an odd medical deficiency, including, “I’ve received an excessive amount of blood in my alcohol system.”

Two hours into the journey, the prepare made its first cease, within the city of Vekovka. Distributors on the platform provided crystal ornaments, tea companies and plaques mounted with taxidermied squirrels.

The cease was lengthy sufficient for essentially the most gastro-curious passengers to stroll throughout the tracks to a small retailer that bought bread, sliced carrots, cheese and what could or could not have been rooster cutlets.

Others smoked and questioned in regards to the lacking restaurant automotive.

“We don’t have dishes,” Ms. Popova, the attendant, defined in English. “Simply Ramen, snacks, sweets and prompt mashed potatoes.”

Emmanuel Gonzalez Rodriguez, 22, a pupil on the College of Texas-El Paso, stood on the platform in a inexperienced Mexico jersey. Mexican followers have been criticized for the usage of a homophobic chant, made when opponents carry out aim kicks. Requested about it, Gonzalez Rodriguez stated he was happy with his fellow El Tri followers for not utilizing the mantra in opposition to the newest opponent, South Korea, on Saturday.

He famous that some Mexico supporters helped clear up their space of the stadium after that match, borrowing a apply from the Japanese. Supporters have additionally drawn reward for serving to to carry a wheelchair-bound Egyptian fan above the group at a Fan Zone in Moscow, permitting him to observe a match with an unobstructed view.

“Let’s present the world that we’re on the primary degree,” Mr. Gonzalez Rodriguez stated.

Because the prepare left Vekovka, Oleg Vysotskiy tried to observe Russia’s match in opposition to Uruguay on his cellphone. The reception was intermittent, not in contrast to the air con.

It was simply as effectively, as Russia misplaced, Three-Zero. Nonetheless, the group superior to the second spherical for the primary time for the reason that collapse of the Soviet Union. Not unhealthy for a squad rated one of many lowest of the 32 groups within the event.

“It’s already a superb achievement,” stated Mr. Vysotskiy, 28, a development advisor touring on trip along with his spouse and daughter. “We’ve been searching for this fairly a very long time.”

The panorama was largely unwavering, birch and pine forests dotted with clusters of picket cottages the colour of Easter eggs.

“Timber, timber, timber,” stated Marcia Bergstrom, 54, Mr. Josefsson’s spouse, who works in enterprise growth. “It appears like Sweden.”

Cleverly, she had introduced alongside kids’s image books to assist overcome the language barrier in Russia. She confirmed an attendant the image of a knife and shortly secured cutlery to slice a piece of cheese and the cutlets.

Mr. Josefsson, 56, the chief govt of a amenities administration firm, was additionally touring with a longtime good friend, Janne Hedman, 56, a municipal gardener. That they had grown up collectively within the Swedish village of Krylbo and have carried a flag bearing the hamlet’s title to every of the numerous matches they’ve attended.

They’ve been touring to the World Cup since 1990. In 1994, when the event was held in america and Sweden completed third, they apparently turned among the many first of the nation’s followers to slather their faces in group colours.

At nightfall on Monday, Ms. Popova, the attendant, provided salami and mayonnaise sandwiches to hungry passengers in automotive No. 11. Sizzling water was obtainable to make tea and to cook dinner noodles. One other attendant vacuumed the carpet in every cabin. A Russian passenger went down the aisle, graciously handing out ring-shaped bread snacks referred to as sushki.

A number of Mexican followers gathered within the automotive to type out meals choices and broader implications of the World Cup. Mexico is taken into account by some to have a authentic likelihood of successful the event. And the nation was just lately chosen as one of many hosts of the 2026 World Cup.

But the group’s longtime star, Rafael Marquez, has been positioned on a United States Treasury Division blacklist of individuals suspected of serving to to launder cash for drug cartels, which he has vehemently denied.

Then there are the inner tensions in Mexico, with its presidential election approaching on Sunday, and exterior tensions with america over commerce and immigration.

“Issues aren’t doing effectively,” stated Edgar Bonfil, 49, Oscar’s brother and an govt for Pepsico in Mexico. “The World Cup could be very optimistic for us. If we do effectively, it would present that we will do higher issues, not solely with sports activities however basically.”

The lullaby rocking of sleep on the prepare gave technique to a sunny and scorching Tuesday morning. Attendants cleaned the aisles and the bathrooms, and provided key chains, pens and pocketknives on the market. The land briefly opened and stuffed with wildflowers, related to those who Swedes historically put on as crowns to rejoice the summer time solstice.

Within the early afternoon, the prepare stopped for half an hour within the city of Druzhinino. The temperature had been stifling within the higher bunks, and a variety of passengers stood within the shade and ate ice cream.

“I’m prepared to start out feeling like a functioning human once more,” stated Mr. Dimitrov, the Swedish fan who owns an internet enterprise.

Lastly, at 6 p.m., in a time zone two hours forward of Moscow, Prepare No. 118 arrived in Yekaterinburg. Soccer is pressing for the time being, however mid-July will summon a infamous second right here from the Russian Revolution: the 100th anniversary of the killings of Czar Nicholas II, his spouse, Alexandra, and their 5 kids.

“In a method, that’s the explanation I exist,” Mr. Dimitrov defined.

His mom, a tour information, turned enamored with the story of the imperial Romanovs, realized to talk Russian and Bulgarian and, on a visit to Sofia in the course of the Communist period, met the person who turned her husband and Mr. Dimitrov’s father.

Mr. Dimitrov stated he deliberate to go to the Church on the Blood, constructed on the positioning the place the Romanovs had been executed in 1918. “The circle is full,” he stated.

Had his mom targeting romance languages and fallen in love with an Italian or a Frenchman, he added with amusing, his life could be totally totally different, however “we’d have a number of extra World Cup titles” within the household.

Jeré Longman is sports activities reporter and best-selling creator. He covers a wide range of worldwide sports activities, primarily these of the Olympics. He beforehand labored on the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Dallas Instances Herald and the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss.


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