Dapo Sotuminu, Live in Russia
Caught in the complicated terrain of the old Soviet Union, about 100 Nigerian football fans who were stranded in Kaliningrad after watching the Super Eagles crash 2-0 to Croatia in their World Cup group D opener, finally returned to Moscow Monday evening.
Most of the supporters had planned to take the train from Kaliningrad back to Moscow after watching the Nigerian team played there on Saturday but did not have the necessary visas to pass through countries like Lithuania and Latvia in an obvious visa gaffe.
While traveling from top Russian cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, to Kaliningrad where the Croatia versus Nigeria game was played, travelers will pass through three countries : Lithuania, Latvia and Belarus, and as such must obtain visas to the three countries before embarking on an authorized trip. But because of the long processes dealing with each of the three countries embassies, Nigerian soccer fans embarked on the trip daring any consequences, while Europeans with the European Union immunity traveled without needing visas.
Russian officials stepped in to help the confused fans by arranging flights but they were not free. Supporters said they were told flights would be found at the lowest possible fare but one fan told Reuters he was quoted a price of 28,000 Rubles (£333.4) which he declined to pay.
Eventually, he arranged a ticket for 6,000 Rubles but would not be able to leave Kaliningrad until Monday evening.
“I was not going to pay that for a flight that is one hour,” Babajide Oke, a Nigerian who lives and works in Atlanta, told Reuters as he stretched out on a row of seats in the concourse while other supporters in their national jerseys wandered about. “I got on my laptop and found my own ticket.
“When I got to the train station they gave us the wrong information and they told us we should go to the airport and we can purchase tickets at a discounted rate,” he said.
“I had to do it all myself but some here could not.”
Many of those sitting around Oke said they had tickets but would not be able to leave until Tuesday evening.
A Kaliningrad official talking with the Nigerians, who did not want to be named, said 52 left for Moscow on Monday and in total 70 had departed but at mid-day on Monday there were still a number waiting for confirmed bookings.
TASS News Agency, citing Andrei Yermak, Kaliningrad’s minister for culture and tourism, reported around 80 Nigerians were unable to leave by train.
“Full support has been given to the Nigerian supporters who despite multiple warnings from FIFA and information alerts from the consulate, were not able to travel from Kaliningrad to Moscow on June 16,” Kaliningrad government press services said in a statement. A large number of the Nigerians flew to the capital Monday evening and there are still about 20 people who already have plane tickets for to finally return to Moscow Tuesday afternoon.”
Dapo Sotuminu, Live in Russia