David Hytner’s World Cup diary: ‘A brush with oncoming traffic and Carlos Valderrama’

Our Russian rover spends a week in taxi turmoil, posing for photos with Colombia’s curly haired maestro and discovers that it’s curtains for curtains in Nizhny Novgorod

The taxi driver at Rostov airport introduces himself as Vladimir in such a heavy accent that I do not quite make it out. “Putin, Putin,” he offers by way of clarification. I am running late for the Iceland press conference, having flown in from Moscow, mainly as a result of my hold bag being lost and then, miraculously, found, and the problem is that the airport is way out of town. I’m going to need Vladimir to step on it. “It will cost you an extra 500 roubles to go fast – speed cameras,” he explains, via my Google translate app. It’s about £6. Fine. Vladimir is a short, bald guy of about 70, with a kindly manner and great, gnarled hands that grip the wheel. He drives like an utter lunatic, particularly into oncoming traffic as he overtakes. We make it with a couple of minutes to spare. “I was never worried,” Vladimir says. Easy for him to say.

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