I rode a Moscow train, and Stuart Pearce was in it
One of my journalism mentors has always reminded me a basic principle in the profession; always go to the filed with a plan of what you are chasing and an open mind.
He tells me, sometimes the story you have planned for turns into a meanwhile account, as a result of an encounter that was completely unforeseen.
The reality of this principle has manifested several times, but not as prominently as on Tuesday night in Moscow.
Yours truly, was really tired after a grueling day. I was up by 5:00am to ensure Radio Citizen’s Jukwaa la Michezo report was filed in time, and my day stretched into the midnight when England was knocking out Colombia at the Spartak Moscow Stadium.
By the time post-match interviews were done, it was almost 1:00am and we could not wait to catch the next metro train to our residence.
You can imagine how tired yours truly must have been, as he boarded from the Spartak metro station.
Could he notice anything unique in the train? Just after cruising past Schukinskaya stop, heading to Oktybr’skoye pole station, my colleague Mukami Wambora of Citizen TV’ jumps from her seat to mine.
On her phone, she has already searched on Google the photos of the man she wants to confirm from me if indeed he was. The photos and the man standing just a metre from me re-energized me to morning freshness.
I told her, “Yes! It is must be Pearce (Stuart Pearce). Let’s ask him, if he’s not there is always an excuse of a look-alike.”
I follow and she approaches him, ready with tools of work. It was either we have a grab interview with the former Manchester City manager there and then or we proceed with him to the station he was bound to.
He nodded in agreement after we asked whether indeed it was him. He appeared surprised, while the team that accompanied the former England international was still trying to understand how we recognized him.
They even appeared more amazed when they learnt we were from Kenya.
Pearce could not give us a proper interview because of the sponsor restrictions, being a football pundit in Moscow for a channel he never revealed to us for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
He however shared with us how big the England penalty shootout victory over Colombia was, fresh as it was in his mind.
He was from Spartak where Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and Tottenham Hotspur’s Eric Dier heroics had earned the Three Lions a quarter final spot.
Pearce played at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, setting up a goal for David Platt in the quarter-final win against Cameroon and operating as a more attacking left-back than normal as England deployed a sweeper system.
England progressed to the semi-finals, and he was one of two players (the other being Chris Waddle) who missed a penalties in the shoot-out against West Germany after the match had ended in a 1–1 draw. Pearce left the field in tears.
“I was feeling like this can’t be the same thing happening again, when Colombia equalized in the last minute to force the match to extra time and eventually penalties. The best thing is it has ended well,” answered the former England Under-21 coach, whose clubs in his youth included Newcastle United, West Ham United and Manchester City among others.
He hopes England can go beyond the quarter finals of the campaign, Sweden being the predicted casualty should his prayer be answered.
Pearce’s last appearance for England was in a goalless draw in Poland on September 8, 1999 in the Euro 2000 qualifiers, at 37 years and 137 days marking his 78th cap.
Of course a selfie in the not so well lit train was inevitable, before he alighted at Planernaya station, as we changed to Krasnopresnenskaya.
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