Tuesday 29 January 2013

Moldova V England, Chisinau

Moldova v England

FIFA World Cup 2014

European Qualifying Group H,

Zimbru Stadium, Chisnau, Moldova

7 September 2012

England's second visit to Moldova. The first came 16 years earlier in 1996 and saw the debut of England legend David Beckham. That match was played at the Stadionul Republican in Chisinau and England won 3:0

England's allocation was incredibly small for this match (approx 1000) because the stadium only had a capacity of 10,400. Therefore it was no surprise, that Sue and I both both on 2 caps missed out on the 70% ballot for top cappers. We also failed dismally in the lucky dip (30% ballot). Nevertheless, I remained optimistic that I could still secure tickets through the second sale. Sadly I failed, so it was off to Moldova without tickets in the hope that I could get two in the home end.

Personally I was intrigued about Moldova after reading the book by Tony Hawkes, 'Playing the Moldovans at Tennis'. It is a true adventure that the comedian embarks on after making a bet following the home game at Wembley against the Moldovans in 1996. The wager involved tracking down 11 of the Moldovan national team and playing them at tennis😕 

Tottenham's Kyle Walker was the 2012 PFA Young Player of the Year and makes the front cover of the Free Lions 

This map was very useful for finding the EF hotel (Hotel Codru) when I was desperate for the loo. To this day I have no idea how I didn't publicly shit myself 

Moldova 0 England 5

The stadium was built in 2006 and is home to FC Zimbru and the national team located in the Botanica area of the city.

A unique pitch side view.

Day 1 Sleeper train from Bucharest to Chisinau

James Bond train with rear window on last car

 The road to Chisinau was quite interesting. We flew from Birmingham to Bucharest via Paris and spent one night in Bucharest old town before boarding the daily sleeper train from Gara du Nord train station to Chisinau.

So the real adventure begins

 We opted for 1st class because we are snobs and this outrageous snobbery gave us the privacy of a 2 man berth! The journey was a noisy one with the carriage rammed with English supporters heading to Chisinau

Changing the wheels

 The locking pins are in our berth

The most amazing thing was that the train had to be jacked up on massive hydraulic jacks so that the wheel gauge could be changed. This is because the Moldovan network runs off the old Soviet system which has a narrower gauge than the Romanian trains.The main locking pin was under our carriage which filled us with confidence.

  Day 2 Arrival in Chisinau after a gruelling 13 hour train journey.

Chisinau train station

Without further ado we get some Moldovan Lei and get a cab to our 3 star luxurious hotel, the Art-Rustic. Chisinau has a proud history but it shows all the hallmarks of having being conquered by too many invading armies, with the last invader (USSR) leaving a legacy of horrendous grey concrete buildings and countless statues of former Soviets. The population seems fairly split, as many want to see Moldova go the same way as Romania, seeking inclusion into the EU, but there are many of Russian extract that resist this idea and even support the break away republic of Transnistria which is backed by Kremlin! 

The main street is called Stefan Cel Mare, named after the hero of Moldovia (Stephen the Great) who protected Moldovia from the Ottomans, Hungarians and Poles. There are millions of currency exchange shops on this road.

The Arc de Triomphe is located just off Stefan cel Mare and was built in 1941 by order of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the military forces of the USSR, to celebrate the liberation of Moldova from German-Romanian invaders.

The Cathedral of Christ's Nativity is opposite the Arc.

 This Russian Orthodox cathedral attracts many Art students
who happily sketch away in the morning sun.

The Stefan cel Mare monument guards the main entrance to the park of the same name. It was completed in 1927 after the destruction of a monument to Alexander II of Russia by the Romanian authorities in 1918.

The main form of public transport is the trolly bus, you just hop on with the right change but on occasion they do collide

After witnessing the Trolly Bus crash we decide to walk😉.

Interestingly we pass a MIG fighter at the Military museum.

Enroute to the ground I crack and request a beer stop

Zimbru stadium is the home of FC Zimbru and 
the national team of Moldova.

My tactic was to parade around the ground like a ticketless football tourist, in the hope that a Moldovan tout would attempt to sell me tickets. It worked! I had 4 within the hour.

A glimpse of the main stand behind the score board.

The home end. 

Tribuna C - the main stand and players tunnel.

Tribuna A - Iconic views of the soviet style flats. 
England's end is in Tribuna D, top right.


The training ground at the Zimbru complex.

It's Day 3 and match day in Chisinau. To start the day we arrived at breakfast to some great news. Doinja, our lovely receptionist had acquired another 2 tickets for the game. Bonus!

In the morning we bumped into some England fans 
on the official cultural tour of Chisinau.

Artist's square, a mecca for tatt! Gutted that 
there were no Red Army winter hats (Shapka) left.

The entrance to the massive Cricova 
winery on the outskirts of the city. 

Our cuddly tour guide.

Me and Mark Chapman

Putin's stash.

A memo from Yuri Gagarin following 
his 48 hour bender in the winery.

Wine tasting - Moldovan style!

After a skinfull of wine at Cricova the last thing that I wanted was to be cattle herded through the single entrance point of the Zimbru Stadium. Tempers were fraying, but we made it.

The packed out England end

Our personal escort to the England end is feeling really great about his good deed. Who needs a ballot when you know folk!

England in the home stand.

Action in England's penalty area.

England fans

Moldovan Ultras

Second away game completed but no caps earned

Celebrations after the game. Left to right: 
Mark, me, Gary O and Tommy.

A Sheffield Wednesday fan + the fish from Transnistra,
Mark Chapman and a random Moldovan.


Our last day in Chisinau started with a road block

More Soviet architecture at Hotel Chisinau

.......and the Cosmos Hotel

Slum market

The posh central market


Good bye Chisinau, thanks for the memories.

1 comment:

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