Mega sporting events like the FIFA World Cup, Olympics or ICC Cricket World Cup are modern day melting pots. People, who usually are caught up in the humdrum of life, take time out and travel the distance to become an ingredient in a mix of culture, language and perspective making the host city and country an enviable pot of this magical concoction. 

Moscow, the capital of FIFA World Cup 2018 was not left untouched. During the month-long event, it was a study in energy, vibrancy and magic. Fans descended from around the world, for many reasons but primarily, to witness if their national or favourite team justifies their faith in them, exceeds their expectations or breaks their heart. Some like me, were there to enjoy football with fans and take a sip of this extravaganza. 

There were three varying experiences when it comes to fans. On the non-match day, before the match and after the match. 

The fans on non-match days are their ‘sweetest’ best. They laugh, eat, drink and make merry as if there is no tomorrow. Conversations can range from anything to anything and encompass everything. This is when it is easiest to walk in and out of conversations and when you can make new friends too. 

The same fans before the game are tense, shouting, sniping and generally look like they are losing it. These fans converse in short sentences with a load of historical references to players, games and incidents that can prove to themselves and their cohorts what they believe in. It is fun to watch from a distance, especially if you disagree with the core of what their belief is about their team. In their heart of hearts some of these fans know that their favourite team may not go the full distance to lift the cup. But…

During matches, it is just whirlwind of ‘oohs,’ ‘aahs,’ one-liners and parroted chants that can’t be classified into conversations.

Picking up a conversation after the match can be hugely different. This is the key differentiator. Fans on the winning side, celebrate like there is no tomorrow. Fans on the losing side mourn like there is no tomorrow. Fans like me, who are almost always neutral celebrate because you start believing that there is no tomorrow.

Whatever the result, fans pour their hearts and bring a new life to the city for the duration of the sporting event. These conversations essentially are drowned out in the night. If there ever was meaning, it is lost in the same night to mankind. 

When morning (or afternoon) breaks, fans become tourists and put on their friendly faces. With happiness/sadness/nothing in their heart, traverse the city and country. They stir the pot by engaging in conversations that may have all the thinking of Plato, Rousseau and Nietzsche on one end, to Jose Mourinho, Alex Ferguson and Diego Maradona at the other. It depends which side of the table you are on. Such a discussion, generally, lasts only till the next match is scheduled.

Each city, the puritan will tell you, has character of its own. But there is little that remains the same when the Olympics, FIFA World Cup or ICC World Cup happen. It is the fans who descend on the city that drive the character during the event. Trust me, I have been fortunate to witness them.

It is the fans who lend character and flavour to these sporting events and leave a pot full of ideas, conversations and thoughts. This is what makes visiting a host country so delicious. I am certainly waiting for the next edition to add some more flavour and sample once again from this melting pot.

(Sameer Pathak is part of the marketing team at Coca-Cola India and South West Asia. An avid sports fan, he has led the FIFA charter work for Coca-Cola in the region)