Fan Exchange: Moscow – Liverpool

Fan Exchange:
Moscow – Liverpool
Fan Exchange, a new Welcome2018 special project, will see football fans exchanging visits

Fan Exchange:
Moscow – Liverpool
Fan Exchange, a new Welcome2018 special project, will see football fans exchanging visits
Liverpool fan Tage Herstad came to the Russian capital to see his favourite team play Moscow's Spartak in a Champions League match in Moscow on September 26. Spartak fan Nikita Kuryatnikov welcomed Tage to Moscow, and on December 6, Nikita went on a reciprocal visit to England with the red-and-white squad. The second part (click here for part one) of Fan Exchange, a special project, tells the story of this new friendship.
Nikita Kuryatnikov, 35
Spartak fan
CEO of Meteor Media, a PR agency specializing in 3D graphics and photo and video productions. Nikita is married and has a daughter.
Nikita has been a steadfast Spartak fan since he started following football in the early 1990s.
Tage Herstad, 44
Liverpool fan
Tage owns a hotel with a pub, which is about to open for business in the neighbourhood of Anfield Stadium, Liverpool’s home base, primarily catering to football fans. Tage is married and has two children.
Tage has attended over 730 consecutive Liverpool games since 2004.
“I’ve been to England about five times before. My first trip was on a school exchange programme in 1997”
Nikita travelled to the UK a few days prior to the match between his favourite Spartak and Liverpool. He went to London first, where he stayed with his friend Nikolai. “I’ve been to England about five times before,” Nikita admitted. “My first trip was on a school exchange programme in 1997.” Nikita felt right at home in England this time. He and Nikolai travelled to Liverpool via Manchester, where Moscow’s CSKA was playing at Old Trafford the day before.

Tage and Nikita had agreed to meet on the Mersey riverside, and Nikita went there right off the train, without making a stop at his hotel. There were many Spartak fans around already, some enjoying the local amusements, some sitting in the waterfront restaurants. But most of the Russian fans were milling about by the Beatles Monument, taking pictures. Someone had already bedecked the legendary Liverpool Four with Spartak signature “roses.”
Nikita brought a surprise for Tage: the Liverpool fan’s own bag filled with Spartak merchandize, which he had left behind on his Moscow trip.
СRight away the two friends boarded Liverpool’s world-famous Mersey Ferry that plays the Hillsborough victim tribute song nonstop, and went on a river cruise. While Tage told him about the city, Nikita devoured the classic local dish, a thick Scouse meat stew with potatoes. Nikita ventured a guess: “So, this is why they call you Scousers?” “It isn’t only the stew. Scouse is also the local dialect,” Tage explained. The Scouser was in the meantime enjoying his favourite dish. “These are pork tripe and prawn balls. Sui Mai!” he said, popping one ball after another in his mouth.

“I think I like Liverpool better than London or Manchester,” Nikita said. “You have this cool mix of architecture: a high-rise tower here, a blackened chapel there, and some nondescript structure from God knows what past epoch over there. I love it when epochs clash. I would stay in Liverpool for some time. I don’t know if it’s a good place to live for the locals, but it feels good to me.”
The famous English drizzle had the tact to wait until the meal was over, but then it really let itself go. “If you stay, you’ll have more time to learn to play shuffleboard. I don’t think they know this game so well in Russia,” Tage said as he took Nikita into some pub on Mathews Street, which he said was popular with tourists. “It’s like tabletop curling,” Nikita said, summing up his impressions from playing shuffleboard. The pub was also packed with Spartak fans, whom Tage could not help noticing. “There’re too many of you guys around.” With the rain still going strong, the friends decided to cancel their city walk, and instead walked straight to Tage’s house.
“I would stay in Liverpool for some time. I don’t know if it’s a good place to live for the locals, but it feels good to me”
A devout Liverpool fan, Tage lives about forty metres away from Anfield Stadium. There was a surprise awaiting Nikita at Tage’s place. Tage has appointed a real pub, no less, on the third floor of his house. Although the bar matches the room’s interior perfectly, it still looked rather unusual to the Russian eye: a couch, a PC, a dresser and then… a bar with all the works in the middle. Tage has pasted the whole room over with newspapers, displaying photos and articles celebrating Liverpool wins from different years. There are also players’ rare jerseys on the walls and the ceiling. “This is the jersey Steven Gerrard wore for his first-team debut,” Tage bragged. “This jersey belonged to my favourite footballer of all times, Kenny Dalglish. And this here,” he said, pointing out an impressive outfit, “was the training suit of Bill Shankly, the legendary Liverpool coach. I named my son William in his honour.” “Your place is like a museum, Tage,” said Nikita. “All this stuff probably cost you a fortune.” “Sometimes one has to pay a steep price for one’s love of a football club,” Tage replied with smile.
The ten-year old William just showed up in the bar-room. Tage, the benevolent dad, was so nice as to let his guest give his son a Spartak cap. “Hey, what happens if your son suddenly goes and roots for Everton?” asked Nikita. “It’s never going to happen,” Tage said firmly. “He’s my son. I also have a daughter. Her name, Tia, is the acronym for This is Anfield.”

“Cool,” Nikita sounded jealous. “I’m going to have a son, too, pretty soon. I would love to name him Spartacus, and then change his last name to Moskovsky, but my wife won’t let me. Not yet.” Tage treated his guest to some rare kinds of beer at his home bar. There was this one beer that was named “Bresjnev” for some reason. “It’s got to be the eyebrows,” was the mutual consensus. “In Russian, being “on one’s eyebrows” means being really drunk,” Nikita explained. “This beer is extremely hard to find. It’ll be 12 quid a bottle if you’re lucky enough to find it in a pub,” the host told Nikita.
“I’m going to have a son soon. I would love to name him Spartacus, and then change his last name to Moskovsky, but my wife won’t let me. Not yet”
Before the game, Tage took his guests to some pub in the stadium neighbourhood. “This is where the most devoted Liverpool fans get together before the match,” Tage told them. Apparently, this Liverpool hangout had been infiltrated by nosey Spartak fans, too. Russian was clearly audible, if not pervasive in the pub. You’ve got to give it to the Spartak crowd: they really behaved here, English style. The locals chatted amiably with the foreigners, but smiled sceptically every time they heard a prognosis along the lines of “Spartak is going to win.”
But did Kismet also smile sceptically upon them that night! The red-and-whites suffered a crushing defeat to the tune of 0-7 in what must have been the worst beating ever taken by Spartak in its history. There was nothing left to do except traipse back to Tage’s home bar, where many locals were already in attendance. “I get lots of guests here after a football game,” Tage said. “Fifty or more people crammed in here one time. Club execs and once-famous former players also stop by occasionally. They leave their autographs right here, on the wall behind the bar. If I ever move, I’ll have to bring this part of the wall with me.” And right then, like a living vindication of Tage’s boast, none other than Bruce Grobbelaar himself climbs the stairs. Bruce Grobbelaar, one of the greatest goalies in Liverpool history, kept the Merseysiders’ goal from 1980 until 1994. “You played against Spartak back in 1992, didn’t you?” Nikita exclaimed. “I did, but I missed only four, not seven,” Bruce answered cheerfully.
“You’ve been a great host! As the saying goes, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship”
Nikita and Tage had one for the road. It was a “Christmas brew” from Tage’s special stash. “Did you know that today was the worst defeat in our whole history?” Nikita asked. “Yes, they’ve told me,” Tage replied. “But don’t fret. It’ll pass. You will remember this day with a warm feeling. Didn’t we have a good time?”

«“You’ve been a great host, Tage! As the saying goes, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” said Nikita. “And it’s all thanks to football!” “That’s right,” Tage agreed. “Football really connects people. All the friends I have I’ve met at football games.”
When time came for Nikita to leave, he made Tage promise that next time he came to Moscow he would bring his wife and kids. The Liverpudlian didn’t think twice and upped the ante. Next time, he said, he would actually drive to Moscow and travel around Russia. “We’ll do this during the World Cup,” he promised.