Outstanding welcome from CSKA rugby club in Moscow! We were met by the club president, coaches, players, the children’s rugby squad and 30 members of the press. The director of the breakdown assistance service PAMC was also there – he has very generously offered support for the rest of the journey through Russia.
CSKA rugby arranged the most secure parking you can imagine – underneath the stadium guarded by an army of security guards with big sticks!
We were interviewed by the journalists and then the director of CSKA rugby welcomed us to Moscow in a speech that also highlighted his vision for the club, and a development program for rugby with youngsters in Moscow.
The children then presented Chris with a signed set of photos, two club pennants and a scarf. We gave the children challenge badges, and a donation for rugby equipment.
There followed a short game of tag rugby, mixed age teams (!) in the stadium – a real honour for us and the children.
We then met the director of PAMC (the breakdown assistance company) and the drivers of one of their trucks – they decided to have a test run to get the Austin on to the truck! It went very smoothly, although Chris took some persuading to take the car off again when it was pointed out that the trip would only take 10 days if he stayed on there!
The stadium tour guide took us around the stadium. He showed us a T52 tank that was given to them by the military when the stadium was rebuilt. The stadium was originally a sports centre for the Red Army. They have repainted the tank using club colours!
The stadium has a new tower as part of the complex, built in the shape of a trophy, and is the tallest of all the stadiums in Europe. It is not finished inside yet, but we were given special access all the way up to the roof! What a view!
We were also shown inside the changing room for the CSKA Moscow football team – they each have a special place to change! Even the members of the press were impressed with being allowed in!
Time for tea…
And a chat! Over the most delicious tea, sitting in one of the rooms overlooking the pitch, a discussion about the development of rugby took place. Players, coaches and the director talked to us about their initiatives and aspirations – including the introduction of a rugby coaching program in schools in Moscow. They are a small club at the moment with great backing from PAMC and an advertising company called Vostok Media – Chris hopes to help create links with UK coaches and clubs.
We said goodbye to the press, and much to our surprise were then taken to the very very nice restaurant Balzi Rossi which is located on the ground floor of an iconic apartment block. The apartments were given to favoured pilots by the state (they are privately owned now). We were treated to the most incredible meal!
Thank you so much to everyone at CSKA rugby club and PAMC for an unforgettable day!