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Official Review by Danny Armstrong, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Kazan Arena is the biggest stadium in Kazan, the largest city and capital of Russia’s Republic of Tatarstan. The 45,000-seat arena was built in 2013 and is the home ground of Russian Premier League side FC Rubin Kazan.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The price of food is a pleasant surprise for fans. Most snacks come in cheap combos such as pizza with tea/coffee for 100 rubles ($1.50). But, if you fancy embracing a little local culture, you can swap your pizza for Öçpoçmaq (pronounced Ech-poch-mak) - a popular minced beef and onion triangular Tatar pastry.
A hot dog or sandwich with tea/coffee will set you back 200 rubles ($3), KitKats, chocolate nuts and a single cup of tea or coffee are all priced at 50 rubles (75 cents) and sparkling water will set you back 100 rubles.
The nature of Russian football dictates that the contemporary structure and layout of Kazan Arena do not compromise the atmosphere. The ultras (or 'fanati') stand in designated fan stand areas in the north and south stand, at the front of which they hang banners with chosen messages.
Throughout the match fans illuminate the match with flares and test the acoustics with bare-chested chants, rhythmic jumping and even dancing in the aisles.
Due its central location, the neighbourhood around Kazan Arena is the centre of Kazan itself. Kazan is recognised as one of the most beautiful cities in Russia and boasts its own Kremlin (Russian for 'citadel') built in the 15th century. It also has strong Islamic origins, underlined emphatically by the 16th century Qolşärif Mosque within the Kremlin walls.
There is an unmistakable pride in Tatar tradition. Although the Republic is unequivocally part of the Russian Federation it still clings tightly to its identity. The Republic is the only region in Russia to have a president other than Vladimir Putin. The Tatar language - spoken by 6.5 million native speakers - even forms part of the Turkic family as opposed to Russian's East Slavic grouping.
If you want to experience what life is like in one of Russia's ethnic regions, there are few more colourful places to do it than Kazan.
A great hotel/hostel is Loft project Etazhi on Ligovsky Prospekt. It's a complex including art exhibition space, a cafe, a bar and a great roof view. Pubs, bars and restaurants can be found in abundance on Rubinsteiner Street just of Nevsky (Barcelona bar is a great shout). Those who prefer a more raw Russian night out can visit Dumskaya Ulitsa just adjacent to Kazanskiy sobor or the collection of bars on Ligovsky 50. Bar Griboyedova on Konstantina Zaslonova Ulitsa has a cool eatery and bar on a hill with a nightclub built into an old Soviet bunker too.
Each set of ultras in the Kazan Arena fill 'fan stands' facing each other. The club has had decent success in recent years, but will only average around 12,000 fans per match, placing them near the middle in the Russian Premier League.
Kazan Arena is located on the banks of the Kazanka River in the east of central Kazan. It is largely accessible thanks to the Khusain Yamashev highway - named in honour of the Russian revolutionary and first Tatar Bolshevik - and a network of roads nearby. There are large car parks which, ironically do not work on matchdays. There are, however, apartment blocks opposite where it is possible to park. Disabled access is available but limited and fans must pass through two ticket checks including baggage inspection before entering.
You can get to Kazan from Moscow by rail. Trains run every couple of hours daily and make the 800km journey in a handy 12 hours. The cheapest (platzkart) ticket costs around 2,000 ($30.30) and generously permits you to one space in a four-bed carriage.
Kazan Arena is one of the best stadiums in Russia and offers a glimpse of what Russia has to offer fans at the FIFA World Cup in 2018. The facilities are impressive and refreshments are cheap, although whether these prices will remain when the competition comes around is up for debate. Nevertheless return on investment is high even if it is just for the chance to see Kazan on a sunny day - if you're lucky.
As well as being the home stadium of Russian Premier League side Rubin Kazan, the Kazan Arena doubles as the venue for the Russian Cup final held in early May. The stadium is also one of twelve stadiums to be used for the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup.
The outside of the West Stand has a screen which is used to show advertisements, information and most importantly of all footage of the sporting event taking place inside.
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