Blue and Yellow V. Yellow and Blue!

Trip Start Aug 18, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Bakkara Art-Hotel Kiev
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Ukraine  ,
Monday, June 11, 2012

Today was our last big day in Ukraine, tomorrow we will be returning to Belarus. The main reason for our trip was tonight, Ukraine v. Sweden! However, we had several hours before we had to ready to cheer for our favorite blue and yellow team, so at breakfast we discussed some possibilities of where we could spend our final day.

Now, I like outdoor museums, so when I saw that Ukraine had a state outdoor museum I was intrigued to go. I mentioned this to the group and with no insistence on my part that was where we ended up going.

You would have thought that this might be an easy place to get to. Think again. Ukraine, while a great place had not totally figured out how to connect this big outdoor museum to the rest of Kiev. It took us a long time to find the right bus, after our hotel gave us bad directions. A long way on the metro and then a longer trip on the bus did not get us there. Oh no, after the bus, we walked and walked and walked. I decided not to suggest anywhere to go again. It would not have been so bad to walk, but it was hot and humid and we were not completely sure where we were going.

Finally we arrived at the museum. I was expecting a little more from the museum, but what it turned out to be was an open air craft fare that you had to pay to get into. The historical buildings were tucked far away from each other and were mostly closed. The handy crafts that were all over the area were way more impressive than the buildings anyways.

At one point I got forced into participating with a folk dance exhibition. A very emphatic organizer told me to dance, and although I protested, I danced. Luckily it was not that challenging and was actually very fun.

The heat and the museum kept us moving. We found a place to buy some traditional food in the back of the museum. I do not know how much it cost, but I cannot imagine that much, but the amount of food that we were given was incredible and all very delicious.

After lunch we wandered through the last little bit of the museum and then hiked back to the entrance where we made our way back to the metro and on to soccer.

Now Europeans as a whole do not take this sport lightly. This sport is a religion to them and they support their teams like no Red Sox fan every dream of. Today I was going to get a taste of how Sweden supported their team.

Now we had visited the camp yesterday, but today we were going to the meeting area where the Swedes were called to congregate. From this point we were going to march to the stadium, which was a ways away. This had all been cleared with the Ukrainian authorities, and although there were swarms of cops around the area, there were no clashes that I saw.

The camp was on a large concrete square, which may have been build for Sunday markets or something, but now, it was full of Swedes buying cheap beer, singing, painting themselves and generally having a great time. Being proper Swedish fans we were super early and had gotten off the metro with a bunch of other Swedes, causing a spectacle as cheers echoed through the bomb shelter/ metros as we made our way to the surface.

The area was huge and we were joined by more and more Swedes as the hours progressed. I had thought of painting my face, but the heat and humidity made me happy that I had not done this; it would have just been a mess after a while. I did admire those who painted their entire bodies, but their smeared faces after the game told me that I had made the right decision. We found what little shade there was to be had and took shelter in it.

After a while we decided that we were hungry so we, like many others invaded the one McDonalds across the street. You sort of felt sorry for the staff of the McDonalds, I hope they got holiday pay for having to put up with the large influx of Swedes that crammed themselves into the room and lined up out the door for the sweet succulent big mac and fries that could be attained at this magical kiosk.

We sheltered in the air conditioned McDonalds for a while until it got very close to the time where we had to line up to march.

The march was something very interesting to see. Apart from the men in the crowd not thinking of going to the bathroom before marching, or being old enough to hold it until we got to the stadium nothing bad happened, unless you call the parade route smelling like "you know what" a bad thing.

We were a massive sea of blue and yellow in the town where tonight's rivals were from. We cheered and waved and showed our support and are probably on Youtube by now, considering how many people had their smart phones out to film us as we walked by. The march went very well and we made it to the stadium and the line of swat team with no incident. I heard that a few days later the Russians tried to do the same thing and many of them did not get to see the match.

The first barrier was the swat team who would not let us enter unless they saw a ticket in each person’s hand. Then we walked further where our bags were searched and we were patted down. Then finally we got to the stadium gates where our tickets were scanned. After a long hot march we were at the stadium! Now we just had to wait more than two hours for the game to start. I was a little footballed out by this point and just want the game to start.

The organizers made several attempts to entertain the crowd during our long wait in the stadium. They were good attempts, but after the few minutes were up there was not much to do but people watch, which was interesting in itself. 1/10 of the tickets had been allotted for Swedish supporters, the same for Ukraine, and the other to governments and tour companies, etc. However, the home team definitely had the advantage in numbers of supporters. But something like 10-15,000 Swedes were in the stadium.

The teams took the field to loud applause. Each soccer player walked hand in hand with a child before the national anthems of both countries were played. It was nice to see that in Ukraine they tried to have many little girls mixed in with the children as opposed to Poland that had few girls allowed on the field, a fact that really annoyed me.

The end of the national anthem saw lots of confetti and streamers thrown as the teams lined up to play. Sweden won the coin toss and began the battle. It was a sort of even game the first half and the half ended 0-0 to loud applause and cheers.

At half time I had to go to the bathroom, so I set out to find it. This was the hardest row to climb out of that I had ever been in. I could not figure out the signs so I asked one of the helpers, "where is the nearest bathroom?" That questions was beyond her English abilities, so she was about to ask for help when a guy came and simply said, “toilet?” To this she pointed downstairs. I followed him downstairs and found what I was looking for. I guess bathroom is not nearly as common as toilet.

The second half was where all of the fun and disappointment happened. Sweden quickly made the score 1-0. This sent the fans into a frenzy of glee. We cheered and cheered until in retaliation the score became 1-1, and then not long after 1-2. The second goal was a goal that should not have happened, but one of the players was not doing their job apparently.

The Swedish supporters grew quieter and quieter as the game wore on and we realized that Sweden was not going to win. We even refused to do the wave when it came around, which had a rather comical affect on the wave as it went around the oval stadium.

Although the Swedish national team owed it to us to win, they did not and the game ended 1-2. Now, we were in the capital of the host country, so the walk of shame was very long.

Most of the metro stations had been shut down for security reasons, (the line of 17 swat members at the entrance to the metro left no doubt in our mind that we could not go down there,) so we had to walk a long distance though a city that was boisterously happy about the one match they would win this tournament. Cars honked, people cheered and there was this atmosphere of pure jubilations, with a sprinkling of somber Swedes mixed in. Luckily our jerseys looked enough alike that we blended in and were ignored by most of the crowd, except for a few who felt like reminding us that Sweden had not played well, which was there way of saying good game.

It took a long time, but we finally made it an open metro which took us to the hotel and the long awaited bed. Sunburns had colored all of our faces, so cold showers and air conditioning was lovely. I took the precautions of packing tonight so that we would not be stressed out tomorrow when we had to leave in the morning.

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