Saturday, 22 October 2011

Episode 15: Rob gets patted down by a burly, Russian security guard (twice)

said the security guard, reaching into my satchel and grasping my asthma inhaler. The smile of satisfaction at actually having done something soon left his face when I explained it was for my mild lung condition and not some fancy, foreign drug-taking paraphernalia or home-made, tear-gas canister. He then asked me to stand like a scarecrow and thoroughly patted me down for "sharp objects" that I might have been carrying. In all honesty I was a little bit miffed. Especially considering we were going to a low division football match between two relatively unknown teams. Especially considering it was bloody freezing, and especially considering how madly intimidating the huge police presence was.

Hopefully the only time I'll be behind bars in Russia
I don't know how much of a problem football hooliganism is in Russia. I can only assume it is considerable. I do know that, in this instance, there were more police than players on the pitch. They looked dead bored. They walked up and down kicking their heels, hands touching their batons in agitation. I wasn't sure if they were hoping something would kick-off (excuse the pun) or whether they just wanted to get off duty as fast as possible and into the bar. Needless to say this was a lot different from seeing Torquay United play at Plainmoor, which can be intimidating for a lot of other reasons.

The game itself was quite enjoyable. Smolensk dominated the first half and scored the only goal of the match. FC Karelia, despite losing half of their home audience at half-time, played a much stronger second half. More football-minded friends informed me that the level of football was nowhere near the level of the equivilent English league. "Fair play" I shivered, content simply with the novelty of watching a match in Northern Russia.

The game was free although I did treat myself to an FC Karelia football scarf for 250 roubles which makes a nice souvenir. They were being sold by a freezing cold, but very cheerful girl in a kind of tent outside the stadium. Why she couldn't have been inside one of the stadiums buildings I have no idea. The walk to this merch stand wasn't far but obviously meant another pat down session with Russian security. This time, my guard of choice took a particular disliking to my selection of pens and fumbled each one before deciding they weren't a threatening weapon and chose to pat me down again looking for "sharp things". I sighed and succumbed to the search, trying to make myself feel like a suave secret agent instead of an uncomfortable, twice-molested foreigner...

more asap!

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