Kazan, the fringe of Europe

KAZAN
– You need only walk down the street to realise that we’re on the
fringe of Europe here. Kazan, the city that gave its team the name of a
gemstone: Rubin, as in ruby. The landscape is a fusion of old-school
Russian buildings and mosques of the neighbouring Asia. Some people point out a big green building and say – in a low voice even now – that
it’s where the KGB used to be. True or not, it would be
a minor detail today in the river of youthful life moving briskly about the
centre of Kazan, Asian features and blond hair all rushing
to meet the future. Universities, cultural centres, music.

Memories
from 2009 inevitably resurface, Mourinho’s wary apprehension of the kings of Tatarstan, arriving at the stadium for training as the
sun was setting, the sky above the stands punctuated by the
minarets of the mosques. They gave us a game all right, a strong
squad that hasn’t changed an awful lot since then. At the time they had just
won the 2008 Russian championship. Together with Zenit St Petersburg,
Rubin Kazan have broken Moscow’s football hegemony. This time round the cold in Kazan
is just starting to freeze the nights
over. But it’s sure to bite at the Central Stadium this evening. (SW)

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