England, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Xinjiang

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We leave Urumqi and Phil finds out for the second time that he seems to be edible.

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China has felt like sanctuary after the tribulations of the journey from Kazakhstan, and after spending a couple of days in Urumqi and hooking back up with the Boy Noble, we collectively decided to make a 3000km detour to Kashgar, the gateway to the Karakoram highway, on the far western edge of the Taklamakan desert.

A warm welcome in Kashgar
A warm welcome in Kashgar

Kashgar is another of those places, like Samarkhand and Bukhara, whose name resounds with mystery and allure. It lies at the very heart of the continent, close to the borders of Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan and is rightly considered the crossroads of Asia…

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As soon as we arrive in Kashgar, Chelsea fan Phil does his best to find a place to watch the final and we meet Gersh for the first time.

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Richard just emailed me from Dushanbe, saying “The Tajiks are all cheering you on!” He organised a game in honour of the Ball as soon as he got back there. As they had no goalposts, they played a variant of the great game where both Tajiks and English tried to score by knocking over a bottle strategically placed on the pitch. Each time someone scored a goal, the other team had to drink a shot of vodka out of the goal… “Ref required when the bottle is empty!” I can only imagine the scene after an hour’s play…

More recently, he’s been keeping himself busy in his Afghan hideout by recruiting some of the local Afghan hill-folk for a new cause…

The Afghan Connection
The villagers spell out their support for England

The blue football at the centre of the picture was bought in Samarkhand as a symbolic spin-off from The Ball. Richard says that it has brought much joy and laughter — both to himself and to the locals. Given what has happened in Afghanistan recently, this thought makes us very happy.

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While Rich organises the Afghans in Badakshan, we’re doing the same with Kyrgyz folk, just the other side of those same mountains.

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Written by on Friday, May 3rd, 2002

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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.