Georgia v. Russia

Posted on March 28, 2012 by

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At a politically-charged rugby match on Saturday March 17, Georgia smashed their long time opponent Russia 46 to 0. It was the first match Georgia and Russia have played on Georgia’s soil since the 2008 war. Some friends and I were lucky enough to be present for this legendary game. But it was not an easy task.

A good friend of mine and I started talking about this game 2 months ago during our group’s orientation. At that point, we knew one thing about our future plans in Georgia: we would be at this game. One way or another we were going to be there.

So began the task of figuring out how to get tickets. After asking around, we decided that we would simply go to the stadium 3 weeks in advance, since we were in Tbilisi anyway, to buy the tickets ahead of time to avoid a sell out. First of all, we went to the wrong stadium, and second of all, tickets weren’t on sale yet. We upped our persistence the next few weeks to asking every Georgian we know about how to obtain tickets.

Despite hearing a dozen different answers, we got close few times. A friend of the man I tutor tried to go buy us tickets, but it was too late and too far out of the way. By this time we realized that the game would actually be held in Vake at the Locomotiv Stadium; a fair way out of the way for anyone not living in Vake.

As the friend I first conceived the idea of going to the game with fell ill, another friend of mine trudged to the stadium the day before the game only to find out that the tickets were SOLD OUT! Having already booked my train ticket, I decided to go ahead and head into Tbilisi with high hopes of scalping a ticket. Sure enough, the reason the tickets were sold out is because dozens of men had bought the lot and were selling them for twice the price. As I was ready to pay as much as 20 GEL to see the game, I was pleasantly surprised to talk down the price to 10 GEL per ticket.

Go Georgia!

Since rugby is the well known social drinking sport, a friend and I set off up the road in search of a bar before the game. We didn’t find a bar, but we did find a micro-brewery selling multi-liter bottles of beer from a tap in the store. Awesome!

Having heard from 6 other friends that they also needed tickets, we bought more tickets still relieved that they were available. Our friends were nowhere near the stadium so we decided to go ahead and try to find seats before they arrived. The tickets were general admission, so to say that the entrance to the game was chaos, is a vast understatement. As we went entered, we were met with at least half a dozen police officers at each gate. We were told by each group of guards that we were to continue moving.

We didn’t entirely understand, but we continued on anyway. Finally, we found a gate where we were able to push our way to the front of dozens of other rugby fans and convince the police officers to let us in. We found a great group of seats to reserve. Getting our friends in was quite the challenge as the police officers were no longer letting anyone into our section. After a little persuasion, we were able to communicate that we already had seats saved for our friends, and they were allowed in amidst the pushing and shoving.

The stadium quickly filled up until there was, literally, not a seat left in the house. Another friend and I found ourselves explaining what was happening in the game to the rest of our friends as we were the only ones who had played rugby or even been to a rugby game before. 😉 The atmosphere of the stadium easily made up for a lack of understanding of the game.

There was red and white everywhere – Georgian flags covered the stadium. If there was a lull in the crowd, a section was quick to start the wave, and after many sporting events, I’ve never seen a wave as successful as the ones that were started during this game. Our group could often be heard shouting “Lelo Lelo Saqartvelo” (Try, Try, Georgia) at the top of our lungs. As the game went on, it was clear that Georgia was going to win by a landslide. It then became a matter of whether it would be a shutout or not, and sure enough, it was an impressive shutout. The game truly was legendary and will definitely go down as one of my best Georgian experiences!

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