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

Category: Uzbekistan

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.

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…

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.

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.

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 only remaining grave from 1942

This time it’s personal

For Richard, Julia, Angela and Jason. Now we know.

Chris sets out to find his grandfather’s grave in Kanimech, a remote village between Samarkhand and Bukhara.

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I’m writing this entry as a personal aside. It’s not football related, but tells the story of how I found my grandfather’s grave – something I have dreamt of doing since I first heard the almost impossibly traumatic tale of my family’s exodus from Poland.

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The Ball visits the home of Mathematics

the Ball at the Registan
The Ball at the Registan

The Registan in Samarkhand is where Al Ghorasmi wrote his famous text “Al Jabr”. I feel particularly privileged to have sat where he most probably sat – we now recognise his name as ‘algorithm’ and his book gave us ‘algebra’ – I use these every day of my programming life.

An image of a Buckyball
A Buckyball

The Ball itself is another mathematical object, named much more recently after R. Buckminster Fuller, another scientific visionary – its basic form is called a Fullerine or a Buckyball. In nature this shape occurs as Carbon 60, a molecular-sized football which can bounce even when travelling at half the speed of light. You can read more about it in this article on

Friends Reunited

Chris Rich and Phil
Rich, Chris and Phil meet in Samarkhand.

So, we’ve met up with our friend Richard Hamilton, who took a taxi from north-eastern Afghanistan to Samarkhand. He’s been running an aid campaign for Concern Worldwide, trucking in relief supplies from Tajikistan in the wake of the “Operation Enduring Freedom.” Richard was going to make this trip with us (the three of us had travelled to France for the 1998 World Cup together) but, unfortunately for us, Afghanistan called to him louder than Seoul. Phil and I are glad that he’s managed to get away for long enough to meet us here.

We meet Rich in Samarkhand, who wastes no time in organising a game in the historic Registan.

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To celebrate our reunion, we played keep-up in the Registan, followed, as darkness began to fall, by a fast and furious game with a group of children in a park nearby.

After the game, I entertained the kids with a couple of his magic tricks, which seemed to do down well. Judge for yourselves by downloading the MPEG movie clip.

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.