This past week since the World Cup kicked off must have come as a real shock to the system for the everyday people of hosts Russia. For football fans, the most obvious change to their viewing experience has been the debut of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) on the world stage.
Already the new technology has left an indelible mark on the tournament - by allowing a goal in the classic Portugal-Spain tie and awarding three penalties to France, Sweden and Peru. Only the Latin Americans wasted the opportunity and failed to walk away with three points.
Some will equally be raging at instances where VAR was not utilised - such as in Argentina’s failure to breach Iceland and Mexico’s stellar upset of title holders Germany. Even as El Tri marched towards a 1-0 win for the ages, their crazy, colourful fans screamed and gestured wildly for VAR when striker Chicharito went down in the box with minutes to go.
After the match, a handful of Mexicans told me they fully supported VAR’s implementation. If it will make the game fairer, better; why not, they said between quaffs of beer.
And did I already mention they’re crazy?
After the final whistle, the jumping, dancing and singing - hailing goalscorer Chucky Lozano and of course “Viva Mexico!” - went on unabated as a sea of green poured onto the streets of Moscow. Metro trains from the stadium to the city centre bounced and shook, mirroring the tiny earthquakes - really - reported to have taken place back in Mexico.
As they banged and drummed on escalators and train doors, grinning Russian security looked on and offered a high-five or two, with some whipping out their phones for selfies and videos of the spectacle.
Not every local was as enthused, though. A woman sat in a corner on the platform, grumbling to herself as she missed train after train filled to the brim with Mexicans. Inside, a man and his wife cursed as a large, drunken fan fell on them when the train moved off.
The truth is not every Russian is happy to have the World Cup happening in their backyard. And when the hundreds of thousands of visiting fans depart, and the dust settles on an event of such scale, the litmus test of its impact will be measured by whether such nonplussed locals take something away from it.
Of course these are early days but for casual football “fans” like waitress Natalya, the World Cup has already made an impact. She used to only know of players from Brazil, France, Spain and Argentina, but after Russia’s one-sided 5-0 scorching of Saudi Arabia in the opener, said she would pay more attention to her country’s progress in the tournament.
“What about Singapore? When do you play at World Cup?” she asked innocently.
I laughed, then briefly felt bad thinking of the unwavering belief displayed by travelling Icelandic fans I interviewed, then laughed again.