Despite the rain, a few dozen spectators have gathered to watch a football match in the village of Fedino. The town's football club is playing against another local team from the Moscow region, as part of the district's tournament. The villagers are armed with umbrellas and bags of sunflower seeds, which have been a popular snack in Russia since Soviet times. A young mother watches the game with her son, whom she just picked up from practice. Some among the small group of spectators shout instructions at the players as the match heats up.
The captain of Fedino Football Club is out on the pitch as well.
"Football is our life," Vladimir Murashov explains during the halftime break. Vladimir was born in Fedino and has been playing for the team since he was a teenager.
"I'm 43 now but the team makes me feel young. Because this team is like my family. It doesn't matter how the game ends. I play with them because it makes me feel happy."
Everyone at the local match says that they are excited about the World Cup. A young boy is proudly wearing a bright green T-shirt with the World Cup mascot "Zabivaka" on it.
"We are looking forward to the guests arriving," his mother says. "Russia certainly has something to show for itself!"
A young man in glasses explains that he wants to see how all of the football teams fare - including the Russian national team. With a shrug he adds: "But I don't think the World Cup will change anything in our region. We are far from where it's all happening."
Fedino is only about 100 kilometers from Moscow. But it feels a world away. In preparation for the World Cup, the Russian capital looks licked clean. The roads have been fixed up - buildings, fences and metro stations have been meticulously repainted. Officials have said that in Moscow alone, over 150 billion roubles (€2 billion, $2.4 billion) have been pumped into infrastructure projects connected with the games. Overall the preparation for the World Cup has cost Russia 683 billion roubles (€9.2 billion, $10.9 billion), according to the tournament's organizing committee.
Despite the local passion for football, Fedino's soccer infrastructure is far from being state of the art. The stadium in the village of just over 2500 inhabitants consists of a large field with a small viewing stand. The grass is pristine but the changing rooms, with their corrugated metal roof, look make-shift. Pillars painted in the colors of the Russian flag are peeling.
Fedino's football captain Vladimir says the locals are proud of the sports grounds anyway.
"Everything that you see here […] is kept up thanks to the energy of the team - and by the locals. And of course the local administration helps, but as much as its resources resources allow - as much as it can."
A "hockey region"?
Two years ago a small open-air ice hockey rink was installed on the other side of the football pitch. After all, Fedino and the region around the nearby city of Voskresensk are known as a "hockey region" - because of the high density of Stanley Cup winners from the area, as the locals proudly explain.
But Vladimir's heart beats for football. He's hoping the town will eventually get a mini-football stadium. His 12-year old son plays football in the local boys' team.
"We could [even] build a gymnasium here," he adds, pointing to a smaller field next to the main pitch where his son was training just a few hours ago. "But of course there isn't money in the [local] budget for that at the moment."
He pauses, before dialing down his expectations.
"You know what we really need, even if it's totally banal. We need an automatic lawnmower." He says at the moment cutting the grass takes six hours each time.
Big hopes for the World Cup
The locals in Fedino had hoped the World Cup would have a positive effect on local infrastructure – especially when it comes to sports.
They say in the run-up to the World Cup there was some talk of building a new stadium or training ground in Voskresenk, the city closest to Fedino, in order to host one of the tournament's football teams. Vladimir says Voskresensk is in dire need of a new gymnasium, since there is only one in town – and it was built in 1966. In the end, Bronnitsy, another city in the district will be hosting the Argentinian team. There are 17 training bases in the Moscow region.
"If there is an boost from the World Cup then it will come after the tournament," Vladimir explains, hopefully.
Watching from afar
Today's football game here in the village is tough - and it's Fedino's opponents who come out of it victorious, despite the passionate shouting – and even swearing – of the spectators. "Unfortunately we lost," Vladimir says after the match, as he heads towards the changing rooms.
He says the tickets are too expensive for most of the locals to attend a World Cup match live.
"That's upsetting of course. It would be great to go see one game at least. But that probably won't happen. We will watch it all on TV. All our wives are annoyed already because they know we will be watching TV for a whole month!"
The person who operates Fedino's stadium plans to set up chairs and a projector outside the changing rooms for the important World Cup games. One woman knows what to expect from the audience at these public viewings: "They shout so loud that you can even hear them from the houses. The women are usually at home and we can hear the men shouting - and it makes us happy, too."Emily Sherwin (Moscow)