The Ball 2002 is kicked over the Great Wall of China on its way to Korea & Japan

Archive for April, 2002

When I need to wash my kit…

Barf powder
What is this powder supposed to do to my football shirt?

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The only remaining grave from 1942

I’ve been asked by some people if they could leave comments to my story about finding my grandfather’s grave. Initially, I did allow comments, but, at a friend’s suggestion (that I risked having people post frivolous or inappropriate stuff) I removed the facility.

Now I’m unsure. So I’ve decided to put the decision to you, dear readers… please cast your votes, and I’ll implement the decision when I reach China next week.

– Voting closed – comments now allowed – thanks for your votes –

As a postscript to this entry, my cousin Julia sent me this link to a site which details the history of the Polish exodus, and some of the experiences of those who were affected by it. Be warned, it is not a story for the squeamish, but if you want an idea of how my grandfather ended up buried in Uzbekistan, it’s an excellent resource.

Come on you, er, yellows!

Manchester Club card
The Manchester Club, Bishkek

We arrived back in Bishkek from Issy-Kul intent on seeing the Champion’s League semi-final between Manchester United and Bayern Leverkusen. We had no idea where to go, until we enquired in a bar known to be an ex-pat hangout in the centre of the city where people would watch football. We were rewarded with a chorus of uncomprehending looks, until we uttered the magic word “Manchester”, whereupon we were directed to the most unlikely of places to find in Central Asia – the Manchester Club.

Manchester Club staff
The staff at the Manchester Club, Bishkek

Phil was first into the bar, while I took some shots of the building and the friendly bouncers, so when I eventually went inside, I found him engaged in an animated conversation with the staff. Victoria (centre of picture) seemed to be the ringleader, and was being gently teased by Phil about the appropriateness of her name. Strangely, she’d not been informed before of her namesake’s existence…

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Phil – Issy-Kul, or what?

The players at Issy-Kul
The players at Issy-Kul

More footballing serendipity, ex-Soviet weirdness, and Phil scores a goal to remember…

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The Ball in Bishkek

A high ball
The Ball reaches 2800m

Our arrival in the almost unpronounceable Kyrgyzstan, a nation consisting of less flat surfaces than any other, made playing football a little more tricky than in the flatlands of Europe, Russia and Uzbekistan. Nonetheless, we found that Bishkek, the capital provided us with more football than we had expected.

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The Ball crosses mountains to keep the show on the road, and finds a game in Bishkek.

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Come on you Reds!

Lenin petitions the Referee
“Are you blind, ref? It was clearly a foul!”

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Soviet-era statues, eh?

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Everyone seems to take an interest in The Ball.

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Hee Hee Hee

While in Bukhara with our friend Rich who, sadly, was only with us for a week, we had one spectacular night. After dinner in town we returned to Farkhad and Maya’s beautiful courtyard of their hotel in the old town and proceeded to neck the vodkas with much frivolity and raucous laughter. Chris just before bed decides to ring his recent girlfriend, my cousin, for a quick ‘clear up some issues’ call and Rich and I head off to his room for me to play him “one more fast one before bed”, as he was insisting. He has been in Afghanistan for three weeks straight with no music at all, so I thought it only fair to bang out ‘That’s Alright Mama’ one more time, double time, away from the disturbed eyes and ears of Maya and her sister. As my flashing fingers came to a stop, Rich insisted on another, I kissed him goodnight and slipped away to bed….

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The Ball visits Nurafshon Bukhara FC

Bukhara FC Logo
The Nurafshan Bukhara FC Logo

While in Bukhara, we took the opportunity to visit Nurafshon Bukhara FC, who are currently lying 8th in the Uzbekistan Premier League. The visit was organised by the ever-efficient Shukhrat, who accompanied us to the training ground to meet the players and staff…

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In colour, in motion, and as the dogs say in Moscow, “harasho”.

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Travelling is grim for a homeboy, tourism is a theme pub

If it wasn’t for the carrying of this beautiful football, the games we play with it, meeting our friend Rich (I love him), the search for Chris’ Grandfather’s grave (a highly charged, sensational moment, read Chris’s version of events here), and the final delivery of our ball to the Opening Ceremony at the World Cup (if we make it), I would never have made this journey at all.

The constant movement, being so close to Chris (I love him too but the wedding’s off after this trip ends, unless someone would like to sponsor us separate rooms?!!) and mollicoddling travel agencies are driving me bananas.

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Culture and vodka-based political lobbying at a traditional Uzbek celebration.

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England v. Uzbekistan

Bukhara Minaret
The Ball falls from the Minaret (it’s in the image, honest!)

The day before Richard left for Tajikistan, we arranged to film the Ball falling from Bukhara’s landmark minaret. The minaret is justifiable famous for its role in satisfying the considerable blood-lust of the local khan, who used to dispose of people by having them thrown off the top.

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Rich, Chris and Phil reach Bukhara and play a game in the shadow of the ancient minaret.

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The only person to survive the fall was a woman, who when asked for her final wish, elected to wear her entire wardrobe, consisting of forty dresses. This gave her sufficient padding to withstand the impact, and indeed, to this day, Uzbek brides are given forty dresses on their wedding day. For good luck, I assume…

After filming, we were surprised to find that the medrassah which the minaret is attached to was also used by the locals as a boundary for their regular evening five-a-side games… so of course we asked to join in…

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The Ball 2014 left England on 9th Jan 2014 and headed to the World Cup in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The Ball 2010 left England on 24th Jan 2010 headed to the Opening Ceremony in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Ball 2006 travelled from London to the Opening Ceremony in Munich, Germany.

The Ball 2002 was carried 7000 miles across Europe and Asia to the World Cup finals in Korea & Japan.