MEXICO CITY (Xinhua)
-- Nearly 11,000 kilometers from home,
Russian-born Anya Shevtsova cheered as she watched her national
team on television as they won the opening game of the 2018 FIFA
World Cup on Thursday.
Though Anya and her Mexican
boyfriend Luis Merino live in Mexico City, far from the crowds
going wild at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium as hosts Russia trounced
Saudi Arabia 5-0, they were surrounded by dozens of enthusiastic
fans, among whom were several Russians.
The pair had decided to watch the inaugural game at Kolobok,
a Russian restaurant in the capital’s traditional Santa Maria la
Ribera neighborhood, where beet soup, meat turnovers and other
Russian favorites are staple fare.
"I am surprised by our players because I didn’t have much
faith, but they played well and I am in a restaurant where I can
eat my own kind of food.
"It feels good," said Anya, who has been living here for two
years and works at a language school.
Luis, who works for an airline, said they wanted to
experience the first game in a Russian setting, and chose one of
the handful of Russian restaurants that there are in the city.
The small restaurant prepared for the event by decking the
interior with the flags of the 32 national teams competing in
football’s leading global tournament.
Jose Luis Hernandez, a retired phone company employee, got
into the spirit of the games by donning a "shapka," the
traditional Russian fur cap with ear flaps, which he bought at a
recent international fair the city hosts once a year.
"One hopes that the optimism one feels will spread to
everyone," said Hernandez, 70, as he sat with his son.
World Cup fever has recently drawn more business to Kolobok,
which the Leonov family opened in 2002, after emigrating to
Today, the cozy eatery serves as a meeting point for Mexico’s
Russian expat community, according to the manager, Gloria
"There has been a lot of curiosity because of the World Cup.
People have been calling us to find out about our hours and
whether we are offering discounts during the games," said
Though Kolobok holds a special attraction due to its Russian
connection, restaurants throughout the city fill to the rafters
during the World Cup, as Mexicans flock to see the games with
friends and family.
Mexico’s national restaurant chamber Canirac expects daily
sales during the World Cup to reach some 600 million pesos (28.7
million U.S. dollars) nationwide, 10 percent more than average.
Aside from football, the World Cup offers an opportunity to
explore different ways of life.
"I really like that it is being held in a country that is so
different, a culture that’s very different, and that we can now
learn a lot about with everything they are broadcasting from
Russia," said Adrian Hernandez, who was there watching the games
with his wife and two children.
For Anya, 23, the World Cup is a good opportunity to
familiarize Mexicans with her culture, just as she slowly
discovered theirs through Luis, whom she met in Finland.
"I’m sure that the people who went to the World Cup are going
to like my country quite a lot ... what most interests me is for
people to learn more and enjoy this moment," said Anya.