Fan exchange Leipzig - St.Petersburg

Fan exchange:
Leipzig – Saint-Petersburg
A special Welcome2018 project, in which football fans from different countries visit each other
Fan exchange: Leipzig – Saint-Petersburg
A special Welcome2018 project

"Fan Exchange" is a special Welcome2018 project, which involves football fans from different countries visiting each other and going together to see their favourite teams play. On March 15, the Saint-Petersburg team Zenit played the German team RB Leipzig in their return leg in the UEFA Europa League Round of 16. The heroes of the project were fans Olga and Claudia.
Olga Silina
Olga is a bank manager, and has been an active Zenit supporter since 2001. In 2002 and 2003 she went to all her team's matches - both home and away. Going to Leipzig was her first trip since having a baby three years ago. It was a Women's Day present from her husband.
Claudia Leuthold
Claudia is the recruitment manager for a bank. She has followed football since the 2002 World Cup, held in Japan and South Korea. She has supported RB Leipzig since the club was founded in 2009.
"I've already been to Saint-Petersburg, and it's a really beautiful city, but at the moment it's very cold here, I guess even for Russians."
Just under a week had passed since Claudia Leuthold, a fan of the German team RB Leipzig, and Olga Silina, a fan of the Saint-Petersburg team Zenit, said goodbye to each other at the Marktplatz Metro station in Leipzig.

In a week Claudia arrived in Saint Petersburg for the return match.

She shared her impressions: "I've already been to Saint-Petersburg, and it's a really beautiful city, but at the moment it's very cold here, I guess even for Russians."
The weather in the Northern Capital was, in fact, not really right for football: with the harsh frost and strong wind, at times it seemed questionable whether there was any point in continuing. "I know the Saint-Petersburg stadium has a retractable roof and it's nice and warm in the stands, but the main thing is not to freeze on the way there," said Claudia.

On the way from the airport to the hotel she remembered that she not only knows a few words of Russian, but she can also read in Cyrillic- not an easy thing to do. "I have to practice," she said after reading a few advertising hoardings. "I used to wonder why the letters "pec to pah" were written everywhere. And it turns out that it's the Russian word "res to ran", or "restaurant". I know some difficult words now."

"Dostoprimechatelnosty" (places of interest) she said confidently, surprising some taxi passengers. Her "homework" was clearly paying off.
The friends met in her hotel on Ulitsa Vostanniya and straightaway went shopping – to Zenit's official merchandise store, not far away on Nevsky Prospekt.

They bought the mandatory Zenit flag and fridge magnet. "I'll look at it and remember the cold weather today," said Claudia.
As they were walking around New Holland island, the cold weather continued to bother them, and Claudia asked whether Russian vodka really has a warming effect. They decided to find out in the nearest bar. "That's better, it's not cold at all now!"
Before the match Claudia was in for a small surprise. Olga took her to the Zenit fan bar where she invited her to try some classic Russian appetizers. "Potato and salted herring, meat in jelly," it didn't take Claudia long to learn the basic vocabulary.

"It's a really cool bar. Very nice people, good music and tasty food," she said. "That's not all, this bar has a secret," said Olya, intriguing her guest.
An hour before play started an old Soviet bus (bought and restored by the fans) drove up to the bar. Everyone in the bar piled in good naturedly and the bus took them to the match. "An express, right to the stadium," Olga explained. And after the match we can take the same bus back to the bar."

On the way there the Zenit fans entertained the German visitor with songs including Mikhail Boyarsky hits.
The bus delivered the fans right into the stadium grounds, and the two friends wished each other good luck and said goodbye, having agreed to meet each other the next morning for breakfast.

The game ended with a draw, 1:1, and RB Leipzig went through to the next round thanks to their earlier 2:1 victory in the home match. "Don't be disappointed," Claudia comforted her friend. Your team played well. And you've got a great stadium- and fans!" "It's ok, the result is pretty much what I was expecting, our team's not at the top of its game right now," Olga answered.
After breakfast, Olga went with Claudia to Pulkovo airport, to see her off. "It's great that we've got to know each other, come and see me again in Leipzig," Claudia said. "In November our stadium will host a friendly match between Russia and Germany. Bring the family- I've got a big house so you can stay with me and we can spend more time hanging out together in the city!"

Olga didn't need much persuading: "That'll be cool, I really liked Leipzig. And you must come here in the summer for the World Cup. It'll be hot here!"