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Uzbekistan v North Korea Football

November 15, 2015 0 Comments

Last Monday the 4 of us were walking around Tashkent in Uzbekistan. We wandered around a big sports stadium, and saw some athletes training. These may have been Olympians for all we knew. We came across a crowd of men buying tickets. One Uzbek man came up to us and offered to help, he works for the foreign ministry and spoke pretty good English. We found out quickly they were selling tickets to the 2018 world cup qualifying football match. What great timing it was to be there at that time. We ended up with really good seats not quite half way down the side, giving us a great view of the match. The game was on the following Thursday.

football in UzbekistanAbout 35,000 people attended: 34,995 men and 5 women – 2 of them being Donna and Lynn (maybe a couple more). We were told to arrive at about 3 to 3-30pm for a 6-pm kick off. We got to the gate at about 3-15 Had to wait about ¾ of an hour then they opened up the gates. The locals were so good, standing aside and allowing us in before they pushed through. Once inside the stadium we found our seats and settled in. All around us people were saying hello and lots of high fives etc. I think they were so happy to see some foreigners attending the match and very appreciative that we were supporting Uzbekistan. Who in their right mind would support North Korea anyway?

When the Korean team came onto the field the crowd booed and booed. I reckon there may only have been a handful of Korean supports in the crowd. When the Uzbek coach and team came out boy did the crowd go crazy. The game got underway right on time.

In the first 2 mins disaster stuck, North Korea scored a goal. The crowd was visibly shaken. Wasn’t long the Uzbeks came back and equalised, the crowd went mad. I found myself in a bear hug from a guy beside me, about 6’3″ tall and large build. I survived the hug and we all sat down again to what turned out to be a great match. The Uzbeks were the dominant team all through the game. I think the Koreans were fortunate to get the one goal. Wasn’t long and in the Uzbeks go again and again the crowd went mad again even more so. Hugs all round high fives etc. We ended up in flag photo shots with locals all around us.

Half way through the first half a guy with a mic and amplifier system stood just toward the front of us and welcomed us by announcing us as their guests as the 4 Australians and even said what are you doing sitting here you should be in the VIP stand. We just felt so welcomed and comfortable amongst these people. A plain clothed policemen (probably ex KGB) sat beside us and constantly told us to keep our bags under control. He also suggested we hang around 15 mins after the game to allow the crowd to disperse, I guess so we had an easy exit. He was keen to make sure we were safe at all times during the game and after the game.

We eventually exited the stadium and started to look for a taxi. A couple of guys who sat with us and also spoke very good English looked after us telling us which way to go to get a taxi. 20mins later we started to try and hail down a cab. This was proving a bit difficult. A policeman saw us trying to get a lift so he came over to us and got his red baton to work and stopped a car (poor bugger probable thought he was going to get a ticket). The policemen asked the driver to take us back to our hotel.

So all in all we had a great night being looked after by so many local Uzbek people. The people are so good, bit like Mongolia – same sort of easy going nature. If anybody reading this blog is ever considering a visit to Central Asia this is the place to come and Mongolia. So much to see, great food and friendly people.

Visa! Visa! Bloody visas! We have been in Uzbekistan now for about 10 days and have learnt how difficult it is to get through Turkmenistan then on into Iran due to visa restrictions. We went to the Turkmenistan embassy first up as soon as were arrived in Tashkent (the capital of Uzbekistan) only to find out they do not issue transit visas through their country until we have a visa for Iran. We had LOI’s (letter of introduction) coming for the Iranian visa however it was sent to a place called Ashgabat in Turkmenistan. Alan did all this organising well in advance. We cannot enter Turkmenistan to get the LOI so we had to apply for another one. This takes about 7 to 10 days then once we have that in place we could go to the Iranian embassy to get our visa, then go back to the Turkmenistan embassy to get our transit visa which we were told could take 14 days. Adding up the total number of days to wait being about 24 days. This is all very well however our visa for Uzbekistan runs out on 30th Nov and if you overstay this visa there is a $1,000 US per day per person penalty as well as possible deportation.

We may decide to fly back to Iran and do the train trip from Shiraz in the south to Mashad in the north then fly back to our cars. This was part of the original plan.

Now all new plans have been put in place. We are now going to spend the rest of our Uzbek days traveling to the western end of the country where we have a few places we want to see like the Aral Sea. Then hop back up into Kazakhstan and go to a sea port called Aktau on the Caspian Sea to catch a car ferry and head over to Azerbaijan. We will then drive through Azerbaijan up into Georgia. We have been told Georgia is a great place with lots to see however it will be very mountainous and cold. No camping in Georgia. We have applied for our Visa for Azerbaijan, no LOI required and no visa required for Georgia.

So in a day or so we leave Samarkand 2nd largest city in Uzbekistan situated on the old Silk Road. A lot of very old Mosques here with lots of history. Looks like Xmas in Turkey, not sure where and does not really matter.

We have adapted to a lifestyle of driving to a place of interest stay a while then pick another either staying in hotels or camping doing our morning constitutions where we can find privacy. Not much camping at the moment however I am looking forward to getting back to it.

Anybody wanting a new porta pottie let me know, brand new, never been used, done 37,000 km still strapped to the top of the car.

Till next time!

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