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Pens fan from Kazakhstan travels 6,000 miles for a game

by Adam Lindner / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins and PPG are working together on a series of stories to feature the most colorful fans in the game.

For Fatima Kissimova, a die-hard Penguins fan from Kazakhstan, Sidney Crosby's Golden Goal at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver sparked her interest in the team, and specifically Crosby.

"I am a big Canada hockey fan, so I started to Google Sidney Crosby (after that game) and that's why I became a Penguins fan," Kissimova said.

After years of following Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Penguins from afar, Kissimova recently decided it was time to visit the United States for the first time and planned her trip around the Penguins' schedule. 

She finally attended her first Penguins game on Sept. 25, when Pittsburgh hosted the Detroit Red Wings in a preseason contest at PPG Paints Arena.

About 6,000 miles and numerous connecting flights later, Kissimova made it to North America in time for her first-ever game - something that she described as very emotionally overwhelming.

"When you see it on TV and then you come and see it in real life, it's absolutely amazing," Kissimova said. "It was so exciting."

It was hard for Kissimova to articulate how incredible it was to finally see her favorite players take to the ice for the first time.

"It's amazing," she said. "To see them in real life, I don't know. I have no words. I cannot even express the feelings, to tell the truth. I am so excited. It's awesome. I don't know when I will come back, but I hope I will be present in playoffs, and maybe the Pens will be Stanley Cup champions for the sixth time!"

Living in Kazakhstan - which is situated below Russia and to the west of China - Kissimova faces multiple challenges in accessing Penguins content, especially in real-time. 

With the 11-12 hour time difference, Kissimova said the she often wakes up in the middle of the night to watch live Penguins games - and even more so once the playoffs come around. 

"I have to wake up at 3 a.m., 4 a.m.," she said. 

Of her favorite Penguins memories, Kissimova said Chris Kunitz's game-winning goal in double-overtime of Game 7 in the 2017 Eastern Conference Final versus Ottawa is her pick.

"It was so stressful to watch," she said. "I was closing my eyes, asking my dad, 'Did he score?' It was amazing."

While it was the thrill of a lifetime for Kissimova to attend her first Penguins game, it was also her first time visiting the United States - something that she said she enjoyed very much. 

"The city is just amazing," she said of Pittsburgh. "I really loved it. The rivers, the bridges - it's amazing."

Most of all, she said, she enjoyed the people.

"The people are very friendly," she said. "They are very helpful - even though I am not asking for help, people are coming and offering their help."

Kissimova's hopes for the team this year include health - something the Penguins could definitely use following a rash of injuries to begin the regular season.

"I just want to wish good luck to the Pens, and no injuries, hopefully," Kissimova said. "And hopefully the next Stanley Cup."

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