The 2018 World Cup was a phenomenal tournament – exactly what you would hope for in the world’s biggest and best sporting competition. There were tight heavyweight games, fallen giants, late drama and goals aplenty.
There is no way to define what the best World Cup of all time is. It is not a measurable scale. It is subjective to each and every viewer. Goals help. Favourable kick off times also help. The common trend is that people will discount all World Cups from before their time and will put their first proper World Cup on an unattainable pedestal. Recency bias also plays a part, with some rating a World Cup highly because it is so fresh in their memories, while others discount it straight away because it hasn’t had an opportunity to stand the test of time.
I am not here to say that Russia 2018 was the best World Cup of all time, but it was certainly brilliant… Personally, I couldn’t have asked for much more.
There were concerns, of course. Firstly, there was the ugly allegations of bribery and corruption. While Qatar 2022 received the worst of the fan wrath for its hosting of a tournament, there were still several unsavoury accusations levelled at Russia. Add to this the threat of fan safety, particularly for people of colour and those of the LGBTQ community, and the fact that the hosts weren’t expected to do particularly well (it is never fun to lose the hosts, particularly early on in a tournament), and the signs all pointed to a worrying month.
Naturally there were small instances whereby some fans felt unsafe, as there would be in any country. Overall, however, the general reaction was fantastic with fans from across the globe highly praising Russia and its people for putting on such a wonderful tournament. It is this general feeling that has stemmed the entire purpose of this article – the fan reaction.
We can watch the highlights and read the match reports. We all know how the games panned out. We know that France beat Croatia. We know the holders, Germany, crashed out early. We remember that football was coming home, and we recall Senegal getting knocked out on the fair play rule. France 4-2 Argentina. Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia. The Spanish exit on penalties and the Ronaldo masterclass in the groups. The point of this article is not to analyse the games and the moments; it is to gauge the feel of them.
What we know less of is about the fans. The supporters are the heartbeat of any World Cup and in many cases have begged, borrowed and stolen to get their hands on a ticket and a trip to the World Cup. Some fly first class and stay in the swankiest hotels while others spend a month travelling to sleep it rough in a park just hoping to scalp a ticket at the last minute.
In this eight-part series we delve into the journeys of 32 fans from each participating World Cup nation. These fans travelled far and wide to be in Russia with fellow fans of the game to watch their country, to live their dream and to enjoy the biggest festival of football the world has to offer.
This is one tournament. This is 32 stories.