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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.

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…

After playing for twenty minutes in mixed teams, the locals suggested we play by the rules they use when the are too many players present. We split into three teams of five. Each time a goal was scored, the team that conceded would be replaced by the team on the sidelines. The two local teams started playing, while we organised ourselves…

Earlier that day, I had met Tim, another traveller on his way to the World Cup, in an internet cafe in town. I’d suggested to him that we meet up later that evening. I told him where we would be filming, and when he turned up at the minaret, we had four players… the fifth was a Tajik on loan from German Agro Action (yep, there really is a charity with that name) whom Richard knew from Dushanbe, and whom we had met at the top of the minaret.

So then, we had a team, we had opposition, and we had a ball.

Game at Minaret
Phil tries to chip the keeper

Unfortunately, we didn’t anticipate just how good the opposition would be. Or how bad we were. Within a minute of taking the field, I managed to thump the ball over the medrassa wall, resulting in a little lad scampering off to retrieve it. In the meantime, we began playing with the local’s ball, and within seconds had conceded a giveaway goal. None of us, it seemed, had figured out who was playing keeper.

Sounds familiar, eh, Rob ;-)

“Take care of your gates properly” as Dinar put it in a previous blog entry

The previous team of locals took the field again, and we sat watching for twenty minutes as they battled it out together – great end-to-end stuff, much energy, much shouting, and many interruptions by little girls trying to sell people coffee-table books about the city.

Eventually, we got to play again, but the happy scene came abruptly to an end when Richard realised that our dinner would be on the table, and that our formidable hosts at Farkhad and Maya’s would not be lending a sympathetic ear to us when we pleaded that were defending our honour as football players.

Written by on Friday, April 26th, 2002

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The Ball 2018 left England on 25th March 2018 and travelled to the World Cup in Russia.

The Ball 2014 kicked off from England on 9th Jan 2014 and headed to the World Cup in 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.