Yesterday, I went to Luzhniki stadium in Moscow to watch the World Cup qualifier between Germany and Russia. There was tremendous pressure to reenact the victory of 1945 on the pitch and, as if that weren’t enough, I heard a man drunkenly singing his command to the Russian team: beat the Germans “for God and tsar.” Thousands of police officers, special forces and regular troops battened down the hatches as 90,000 rowdy Russian fans piled into the stadium, screaming, “Glory to Russia!” Besides the expected nationalistic ruckus there were even reports, according to a friend who is an editor at a sports magazine, that Medvedev promised each player oodles and oodles of Euros if they could rout the Teutonic invaders.
In the end, the Germans won 1-0, despite admitting that “it was not an easy place to play” — this from Miroslav Klose, who scored the winning goal. (Russia still has a chance to qualify and Germany is now a definite go.)
The best part of the match, though, was the fact that Volkswagen (which is German for “the people’s wagen” and is perhaps the most German of German companies) was the official sponsor of the Russian national team. The slogan? “For Russia, with all our souls.”