Monday, July 08, 2019

Day 6 - Borjomi back to Tbilisi, the day of the big match...

There’s no doubt that this was something of a helter skelter sort of the trip, and I didn’t really allow myself much time to stand and stare, so it was time to head back to Tbilisi, for I had arranged, via an online app, a ticket for Georgia’s home Euro 2020 qualifying match against the mighty Gibraltar.

The train times out of Borjomi being somewhat inconvenient - either too early in the morning or too late to get to the game, I had to improvise. A taxi was arranged to take me back to Khashuri, to connect with the train from Poti to Tbilisi, and a train ticket purchased via the Georgian Railways app.

Georgian driving etiquette is vaguely familiar, given the amount of time I’ve spent in Mumbai over the years. Patience does not figure hugely, and overtaking manoeuvres can be a bit “close your eyes and wait for the crash” from a passenger perspective. But my driver got me to the station easily enough. Change was a different matter, as my 100 Lari note as clearly more than he could handle. Luckily, a nearby bank solved the problem, I paid him a ridiculously reasonable fare - Tbilisi taxi drivers are clearly not reflective of the rest of Georgia - and I could catch my late running train.

Back in Tbilisi, the weather was rather threatening, very warm with the promise of thunderstorms. I borrowed an umbrella for the walk to the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena, the home of Dinamo Tbilisi and also the national stadium. I wasn’t alone, with what looked like an organised group of fans matching to the stadium singing and lighting flares. The atmosphere didn’t seem particularly tense, and given the likely absence of away supporters, it didn’t seem to be a concern.

Arriving at the stadium, the mobile ticket on my phone was scanned and I was in, in good time for a 3 Lari beer and an encounter with three Gibraltar fans, all from England. They had clearly travelled without any great expectation of a glorious victory but were there for a good time and an explore.

The game itself was fairly uneventful. Gibraltar started off keeping virtually everyone behind the ball, daring the Georgians to come at them, which worked for about half an hour, when the ball was rather prodded in from just inside the area by the Georgian midfielder, Guilia. At that point, the Gibraltar tactics changed, and they pushed forward a bit more. Just before half time, they won a free kick just outside the box, which was curled towards the top corner only to be clawed away by the Georgian goalkeeper.

The second half was a contest between a collection of skilled, but not terribly team orientated individuals, aka Georgia, and a well drilled but not terribly skilful Gibraltar. A goalkeeping error and a slightly dubious penalty saw the Georgians run away with a 3-0 win, which was probably deserved on the run of play. Fair play to the Gibraltarians though, they do try to attack the opposition, rather than keeping ten men behind the ball for ninety minutes.

It never did rain, but the floodlights attracted hordes of insects, a feast for the local swallows who swooped in time and again. It was probably more productive than being a Gibraltar forward was likely to be...

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