THE WORLD travels to the self-proclaimed Independent Republic of Transnistria, which has the communist hammer and sickle on its flag and is hosting Madrid tomorrow.
- Reportage The unknown Transnistria and the origins of Sheriff Tiraspol, Real Madrid’s rival: “It’s like a communist movie”
- The whispers of sport Sheriff’s Transnistria or football between nostalgic Stalin and criminals who protect the disabled
– “Transnistria is she pretty? “
– I don’t know
– I’ve been in France, Germany, England… but never ah
At Chisinau airport, the capital of Moldova, traveling to the southeast sounds ‘ugly’ to many. “The situation is … Well …”. And the clerk in one of the shops, who had done some tourism in Europe but not in his theoretical country, thus closes the conversation. The ambiguity of his answer gives way to surrealism of reality.
Once landed on Moldovan soil, in a country that governs a European pro-Roman (yes, there are Moldovans who want to be part of a ‘Great Romanian‘and join his brother from the west), one has two options, take the R2 road north or south. Towards the capital or the unknown.
By choosing the latter, they appear 50 kilometers of endless straights, dark from four o’clock in the afternoon, with potholes that would shake any suspension, with section radars, gas stations, many gas stations, many gas stations, and field, a lot of field, a lot of field. Have we already talked about gas stations and the countryside? In the mountain the Moldovan population is lost, of which only a 41% live in cities, one of the lowest proportions in Europe. Perhaps in a past trend or a futuristic vision of what awaits others. Anyway, about the gas stations and the fields:
Hardly buildings, just people, just nothing. After an hour’s drive in which it is convenient not to leave the supposed main road and after some timid not too big warnings – “border, 10 km“(” border, 10 km “) -, you reach the self-proclaimed Independent Republic of Transnistria.
Pro-Russian, with the communist hammer and sickle on its flag, with the son of a Soviet soldier as president, with a coin that can only be obtained on its territory (the ruble) and which is not valid or exchangeable in any other part of the world and with a ‘visa’ in the form of a purchase receipt.
“Border? ‘Border’ will they say“Some Moldovans defend at the airport, closed to engaging in any conversation that involves giving more than one piece of information about their life. Well, yes, a border for them. Along the way through R2, the same one that will have to travel the Real Madrid bus after hitting ground in Chisinau this noon, no signs of ‘Transnistria‘. Only of Bender and Tiraspol, Moldovan cities, for all intents and purposes, on the north side of the line. Because for Moldova its country does not stop at the two booths that the Transnistrian government has set up on the asphalt of the R2, but there begins a kind of ‘Autonomous Community’ within its territory, but for Transnistria, here begins the yours. “And period”, they will think.
“Real Madrid” and “Champions League” are the magic words upon reaching the border point. And “passport”, especially “passport”. Giant Transnistrian flag, posters with a “No to corruption“giant in English and questions in russian (no longer in Moldovan). Car registration, passport control in an attached sentry box, ‘Toll‘to pass (paid in euros, and the police are delighted), a ticket with the date of entry and the date on which you must leave the territory (in five days) and a “Go Madrid! “Finally, the universal language. Because this week football has fixed the geopolitics of the area and the Sheriff Tiraspol, who plays the Champions League from Transnistria but thanks to the ticket that the Moldovan Football Federation, receive, also after passing through its border (albeit with less complications, one might guess) the most successful club in football. A matter of state. Or states. After the border, there is life, even at night. A place called ‘Lavida’ (yes, in Spanish) and the first of many buildings with a giant ‘Sheriff‘ at the entrance. On the left, the river Dnister.
Rather than looking for problems to let in journalists or foreigners, Moldovans and Transnistria, policemen and citizens, they ask the same thing, half jokingly half seriously: “Do you have tickets to the game?”. The 13,000 Sheriff Stadium seats they will be few for the more than 130,000 inhabitants that Tiraspol has, the second largest city in the area behind Chisinau. “Madrid!”, Jellies the receptionist of a hotel in Bender as she opens the Google translator, unable to speak a word in English. ‘Madrid’ as a solution to everything. At least this week.
Reference from elmundo