June 30th signaled the end of the road for my adored Cristiano Ronaldo and his nation at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Does this mean I’m going back to Ghana?
In two words, “not yet”!
In the early hours of July 1st, Portugal’s team bus left the Fisht Olympic Stadium and arrived at the Sochi International Airport. There was no point for them to spend more time in the city after suffering a 2-1 loss to Edinson Cavani’s Uruguay in the Last 16 of the World Cup.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal packed their bags immediately after Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Uruguay.
They've headed straight to Sochi Airport from the Fisht Stadium. pic.twitter.com/Qk12vtD4pO
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 30, 2018
And while the Seleccao headed to Adler, I drove straight back to downtown Sochi to have another restful night at the hostel. The month of July 2018 has come with its 16 upcoming days of more spontaneity and love for me to embrace until I take the plane back to my country, Ghana. This beautiful Russian summer has brought me so much joy; I feel deeply rewarded for all the positive thoughts and hard work I put into making this FIFA World Cup experience a reality.
From behind my phone’s screen, I laugh at the Facebook comments of those who think I’m coming home because Cristiano Ronaldo has exited the competition. If they read anything at all on my previous blog post or my own comments on social media, they would know I pre-planned this trip from start to finish. They would know the dates of my travel itinerary.
I landed in Russia on June 12 after some 30-hour trip which involved a tiring 19-hour transit inside the refrigerated Istanbul airport (can they please turn down the AC the next time I’ll be there?!). I hopped from Sochi to Moscow to Saransk to cover each of Portugal’s group stages games live from the respective stadiums. A series of fantastic moments!
Anticipating a Group B runners-up finish for Portugal in case of qualification for the knock-out stages, I took a gamble back in April and organized Part 2 of my trip to take place in Sochi. That gamble paid off as the European champions locked horns with Uruguay at the Fisht Olympic Stadium — the venue where I first saw Cristiano in real life.
As explained in my latest blog post about seeing Portugal play from the media tribune for one last time at this tournament, my travel plans are as follows:
– June 12-18: in Sochi for Portugal vs Spain
– June 18-23: In Moscow for Portugal vs Morocco
– June 23-26: In Saransk for Iran vs Portugal
– June 26 – July 8: In Sochi for Uruguay vs Portugal and July 7’s quarter-final match
– July 8-16: In Moscow for the second semi-final match and the ultimate final
The World Cup happens every four years. This is the first I’m attending and I have vowed to make the most of it, regardless of how far Portugal goes in the tournament.
As an accredited media, I have been given the opportunity by FIFA to access games for free. It would be ludicrous not to use this privilege. “One life. Live it up ’cause you don’t get it twice” is one powerful line in the official World Cup 2018 song. It speaks to me.
I have three more prestigious stadium outings to experience and many more FanFest parties to attend as my pre-organized travel plans stretch across the full tournament. My favorite player is out but this does not mean the world around me has crumbled.
I wish him relaxing vacations; he badly deserves that after a glorious 2017/18 season with Real Madrid and spirited performances with Portugal in Russia.
Ronaldo needs those private jet and boat rides, the sun and body tan, and laughter with his family and friends throughout the month of July before club football preparations resume for him. And while he’s at it, I shall continue to enjoy the refreshing Russian summer as well as the remainder of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
May the best team win!