EUROPEAN QUALIFYING GROUP H,
ZIMBRU STADIUM, CHISINAU, MOLDOVA
7 SEPTEMBER 2012
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 with our pathetic number of caps we 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.
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
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.
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.
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 totally backed by Putin!
A Walk down a street called Stefan cel Mare
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 and job done.
Occassionly they do have collisions!
After witnessing the Trolly Bus crash we decide
to walk to the Zimbru stadium instead.
On our walk we pass a MIG fighter in the garden of a Military museum.
Enroute to the ground I crack and request
a beer stop (first of many).
The Zimbru Stadium
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.
We arrived at breakfast to some great news. Doinja, our lovely receptionist had acquired me 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 left.
The entrance to the massive Cricova
winery on the outskirts of the city.
Our cuddly tour guide.
Me and Mark Chapman
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.
Our personal escort to the England end.
Result, who needs the ballot!
England in the home stand.
Action in England's penalty area.
Pissed up England fan.
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.
Keystone cops road block!
More Soviet architecture at Hotel Chisinau
.......and the Cosmos Hotel
The posh central market
Good bye Chisinau, thanks for the memories.