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England play part in Kazakh history

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Phil McNulty | 12:15 UK time, Thursday, 4 June 2009

Almaty, Kazakhstan

England's 7,000-mile round trip to Almaty stretches far beyond the 90 minutes of football that will be played out at the Central Stadium on Saturday - it is an historic and symbolic moment for Kazakhstan.

The presence of England superstars David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard has been warmly embraced in European football's most Eastern point. Fabio Capello's players are often mobbed by fans on foreign soil for souvenir photographs - and here local journalists were at the front of the queue.

Kazakhstan will not qualify for the World Cup, so the importance of this match transcends next summer's showpiece in South Africa. It is an opportunity to put a part of Kazakhstan on public view and demonstrate its development.

The match is a 26,000 sell-out with prices ranging from 2,000 Tenge to 12,000 Tenge (around £8 to £48), with demand from regions outside Almaty mostly unsatisfied, meaning far more could have been sold.

Central Stadium in Almaty in Kazakhstan
England's players have a high profile here. Premier League games are shown live and one member of the Kazakh media posed alongside Lampard for pictures, complete with Chelsea shirt.

And Kazakhstan's place, however brief, on the world football stage, is an opportunity they are keen to exploit - as well as dispelling popular and unflattering myths.

The word "Borat" was to be the subject of a self-imposed ban for the entire life of this trip - until three separate Kazakh journalists brought the name of Sacha Baron Cohen's fictional, and culturally bereft, character into conversation without prompting.

Azamat Ashimov, press officer for the Football Federation of Kazakhstan, told me: "For us this is an historical game. It is important strategically for us to show Kazakhstan to other people. It is important for the image of Kazakhstan to have a big and famous team like England here.

"In Kazakhstan more people like English football than other countries. The popular clubs are Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea. David Beckham is the most popular player, probably for his lifestyle as well as his football."

Dauren Zhailin, from the Kazakhstan Information Agency, was at pains to stress the wider context and importance of England's visit here, away from the business of World Cup qualification.Groundsman working at the Central Stadium in Almaty in Kazakhstan

He told me: "We are very proud as a nation to have England here. This is a big moment for us. This is the biggest game we have played. We are developing country. People in England probably know Borat - we want to show Kazakhstan is much more.

"Beckham is, of course, a favourite and of course people here know about his wife Victoria from the Spice Girls. But Rooney, Lampard and Steven Gerrard are also loved by fans in Kazakhstan."

And while the rest of Europe is in the grip of recession, there is a feeling of optimism in Almaty and the rest of Kazakhstan as Zhailin says: "The economy here is good, with the advantages of the oil and gas industry.

"So yes, this is a football match and one the whole country will be watching, but for a relatively young country like ours it means more."

For Capello, it is a question of acclimatising for this lengthy, but relatively brief, trip to a country that is further east than Baghdad. If you head in this direction to visit European's football community, Kazakhstan represents the end of the line.

And former England manager Graham Taylor, in Almaty as a BBC pundit, admitted the trip presented Capello with a delicate balancing act.

He told me: "It is difficult, because even with all the modern ways of professionalism and recovery, an almost 8,000-mile round trip is a real trek for anyone. And by the time these lads get back there will be next to no time to prepare for the Andorra game at Wednesday.

"I have to respect the Football Association for the way they have organised these games. Imagine if this one had been taken during the season - imagine the reaction of the clubs.

"To have this trip to Kazakhstan followed by the Andorra game is a very good piece of organisation. It is the perfect combination of fixtures."Wayne Rooney at a press conference in artistic surroundings

England's players arrived at their base late on Wednesday night. They rested while Lampard and Rooney were presented for media duties before heading off to train in warm, but very comfortable, afternoon temperatures.

Taylor said: "I think preparation will be quite light. The five-hour time difference does make a difference. Does Capello try and keep it to English time and alter it all around that? I know Sven-Goran Eriksson did it from time to time when it was one or two hours, but five hours is a long time.

"The players will be tired. I know people ask how because they are only playing football, but this is at the highest level, with these lads competing in the Premier League, Champions League final and FA Cup final. This brings mental and physical tiredness.

"Capello will be aware of that after experiencing a full Premier League season. They have come a long way, we have heard the pitch is not so good, but he will be stressing the season isn't over.

"He will be telling them there are two important games left, but will also understand they are at the end of a very long and pressurised season. This is why I believe, in Capello's mind, the performance will be very secondary to the result.

"It is about coming all this way and going home with three points. It is not about getting three points but also playing magnificently, although that would obviously be the ideal."

For Capello and England victory is the only ambition - for Kazakhstan this World Cup qualifier means so much more on a landmark day for this country.


Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    c'mon Kazakhstan..

  • Comment number 2.

    Thatsss niceeeeeeeeeee!

  • Comment number 3.

    2-0 to England

  • Comment number 4.

    Awh, I kinda like the attitude of Kazakhstan. Seem like nice people

  • Comment number 5.

    Great, two games i wont be able to watch no matter how boring they'll probably be.

    Thanks a lot Setanta

  • Comment number 6.

    Why so much talk about the flight? Surely they are pros and can handle that. Man U flew to Japan for the club world championships in the middle of the season and even managed to squeeze in a friendly in Saudi-Arabia in February last year. But as that was a club the only talk was about the amount of money they could make, now it is England and suddenly everybody is talking about the flight. Hasn't Beckham proved that you can put in a performance despite having to travel a long way to the games during the last few years?

  • Comment number 7.

    I'd like to see him give some of the fringe players a chance in these next two matches but keep Rooney and Gerrard on to work on their partnership.

  • Comment number 8.

    England fan shot because he refused to stop singing.

    What the media fail to mention is what our innocent fans were actually singing.

    Surely nothing Borat-related?

  • Comment number 9.

    6-0 England

  • Comment number 10.

    Kazakhstan, the greates country of them all!
    I expect them to beat us... NOT!!

  • Comment number 11.

    DEVILOFRED-WEDNESDAYS GAMES ON ITV

  • Comment number 12.

    I Think we should have Borat in goal just to give them a chance England 4-0

  • Comment number 13.

    good blog phil, but there are some players that haven't played in a FA or Champions league final, gerrard for example, when he plays it will be bout 2 weeks since he's played, so i don't think he'll be so tired, scoring 24 goal already this season, i think he'll be engand's best player for this game, but i also reckon he'll be there best player in south africa in a year's time,i think it'll be 3-0 to england, gerrard scoring a double and setting up one.

  • Comment number 14.

    2 nil England, but prepare to be bored rigid again! Can`t get excited about internationals these days, to me they just cause problems for the relevant clubs players.
    Worse players currently involved with the England set up, Lampard, James and either of the Nevilles.

  • Comment number 15.

    I agree about Lampard and the Nevilles and sometimes James...
    Atleast Phile Neville has finally managed to surpass his brother but thats only down to Gary being injured all the time..

  • Comment number 16.

    Phil

    Sounds like your hosts are very pleasant people. Better than some of the problems leading up to games in certain, erm, less racially tolerant countries England have been to.

    Would like you to put the shooting into context though.

    Anyway, let's hope the cordial atmosphere doesn't translate to on the pitch. Three points is still the objective, no matter how fanboy the journalists are.

  • Comment number 17.

    I LIKEEEE YOUUUU

  • Comment number 18.

    Great blog again Phil, quite intriguing to hear about things from the Kazakh point of view.

    I think it's great how it seems that politics (with the regions' more anti-Western countries surrounding it) hasn't affected their views on football, and how the Kazakhs seem to have a great admiration for English football, it's players and their lifestyle.

    All the best to Kazakhstan and their people for hosting the game, and let's hope we crush them about 8-0 to get that GD up :)

  • Comment number 19.

    A goal on each side of the half...

    2-0 England

    However, If an early goal goes in... 6-0, 7-0

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    C'MAON KAZAKSTAN
    REPEAT THE PERFORMANCE OF "NORN IRON"
    HEALY HEALY HEALY

  • Comment number 22.

    Three nil to the Engerland!

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    Almaty is a beautiful city and the players are likely to be staying at the Hyatt Regency hotel which is a very nice and modern hotel. The mountains and the architecture in the city is very nice to and the people are friendly etc. Drivers are nuts but if you are in a big luxury coach I am sure they won't come to any harm.

    There is only a 3 hour time difference to Almaty and even going on scheduled flights not the undoubted luxury private charter it's not an arduous flight - 6 hours from Almaty to Amsterdam with KLM with seat back tv's, good looking stewardesses and free booze - sheer hell!

    People are too quick to jump to assumptions about places that end in "stan" and all the usual cliches of "trip to hell" etc are wheeled out. Kazakhstan is a young and developing nation - which although it has a nutty President is very interesting, has every kind of terrain and climate imaginable and is the only place I have been when they need rock to make drilling islands in the Caspian they just blow up a mountainside!

    Great place, nice people, reasonable football team - lets just hope they get a great result on Saturday as well.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    "The players will be tired. I know people ask how because they are only playing football, when this is at the highest level, with these lads competing in the Premier League, Champions League final and FA Cup final. This brings mental and physical tiredness."

    Time to get the violins out? What a load of nonsense, these guys are professional footballers and should not be tired, especially now that, for some of them, their season has been over for almost two weeks.

    They're not doing 35 hours a week plus playing football. I know folk who do and I never hear them complaining about tiredness.

  • Comment number 27.

    4- 0 to the ENGLANDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!!!

  • Comment number 28.

    I think if Kazakhstan manage to keep Englands goal tally down, say around 3 or 4, they should consider it a job well done. England will have too much for them, and I don't think Kazakhstan will have any reply in terms of goals. Hopefully it should be a good match, as K'stan can't qualify and England have got the job half done, it should be a good friendly game, one that I'm looking forward to.

  • Comment number 29.

    Should be an interesting match,

    I think we all expect England to win, but as with the game at wembley Kazakhstan should give a good account of themselves

    final score 3-1 win for England

  • Comment number 30.

    stuzzy ur comment will probably be removed, but to say that we are being arrogant by the article saying that Kazachstan are honoured to be playing us is not arrogance. THEY ARE. The Journos from their country said so, they support our teams, love our players, ur scottish, they dont love ur league! Get over it, i couldnt guess why, i mean it is so exciting! They are like a league two team (or lower) who are excited about the team they see on tele, eg united etc. coming to their ground, something they have only dreamed about stop being irrational and anti english.

  • Comment number 31.

    Can anyone explain why Kazakhstan is part of "Europe" for the world cup qualifiers. I thought it was part of Asia!

  • Comment number 32.

    I read a lot of people think England will win easily which I really don't think so. Kazakhstan is not as bad as many people think. They played well in England. I know the score was 5-1 but it was just 2-1 until 75 mins when they were notably tired. They probably will not be that tired at home this time.
    I still think England will win but will not be more than 2 goals. Not surprise if it is just 2-1 or 1-0.

  • Comment number 33.

    to add some perspective and realism to this blog

    just who are they? what sort of competition do we have when its designed to put the minnows against full time players and teams from othe leagues.

    the whole draw is nothing but a joke and serious changes need to be made to the groups because this qualifying rubbish is just that! rubbish and it was a foregone conclusion that england would qualify from such a weak group and turn up in SA to make up the numbers, for they have no hope in hell of winning any major tornament with or without the italian.

    england as a real football force in the world are now a joke, not to disimilar from the political parties.

  • Comment number 34.

    8 - whatever was being sung i don't think it can be justified with being shot..

    31 - Kazakhstan's UEFA affiliation is a result of its history as part of the USSR

    it won't be a good game i'm sure, these matches rarely are, hopefully the Kazakhs can give a good account of themselves though. I'd go for 3-1 or 4-1 to england.

  • Comment number 35.

    good luck to england! hopfully 1 british country can continually get to the finals of these major tournaments (barring the last one)

  • Comment number 36.

    A very interesting article about my country. But, the most disappointing thing about it is the arrogance of Mr Taylor.
    I am sure that tomorrow our lads will give their everything and maybe even more. It will not be a friendly game for us at all. Do you really believe that our players will give in in front of their own crowd?
    Hopefully, we will snatch a point, like we did against the arrogant Belgians.

    PS. Jaujen, its a shame that I have to give you a geography lesson. The border between Europe and Asia lays on Ural River, therefore the part which located in Europe quite large. I tell you more, this part is bigger than some European countries such as Austria etc..

  • Comment number 37.

    bonfirelight - that might be part of the reason why they are in UEFA, but they started out in the Asian Football Confederation after the USSR dissolved as a result of the voting in the Kazakh Football Federation. The same body then decided to apply to UEFA in 2002. i've not seen any other more in depth explanation. Though i am sure someone out there knows the truth!

  • Comment number 38.

    England have a miserable history since '66. They should not be seeded and
    consequently should not be in the top 20 until they can prove themselves
    to be somewhat of a consistent team. Kazakhstan have nothing to lose with this one.

  • Comment number 39.

    33 - just like it was a foregone conclusion that we'd qualify for Euro 2008?? Someone needs a beer...

    Ill go 4-1 England

  • Comment number 40.

    Footballing Associations don't strictly follow the same patterns as Geographical boundaries. Better example - Israel. Last I checked, that isn't in Europe but they play under the UEFA umbrella.

    Doesn't really matter does it?

    Rangersfan72 - I think N. Ireland may qualify this time around, Czechs seem to have imploded, Slovakia and Poland are the only serious competition left in the group and N Ireland have a very strong chance of qualifying for once.

  • Comment number 41.

    I Liiiiiiiiiiiiiike

  • Comment number 42.

    maybe we could play borat in goal we have have bruno on the right already

  • Comment number 43.

    Post 30 - not being arrogant??? They are a league 2 team or worse? Your comment is based on what exactly ill-informed arrogant view that unless it's the Premiership or the English Bin Leagues it must be rubbish.

    As for the comment about why do they bother with the qualifiers? I am quite sure Latvia would argue that they are worthwhile - perennial whipping boys who then qualified for Euro 2004.

    Kazakhstan is the 3rd largest country in the world by landmass I believe with a very large definitely European (Ethnic) population. If you are questioning why they are there the question is why not? As someone said much of the country (a massive land area) is in Europe, far more than somewhere like Turkey for example.

    English media need to take their head out the cliche pot (e.g. African goalies are unpredictable, Southern Europeans are divers and Northern Europeans disciplined) and start actually earning a crust by doing some work. I hope England qualify for the next world cup as the look on Lineker and "Irishman" Lawrenson's face when you get stuffed by Portugal/Germans or whoever is hilarious. Almost as funny as the lies they spin when you scrape wins over the likes of Ecuador and T&T.

  • Comment number 44.

    "I'd like to see him give some of the fringe players a chance in these next two matches but keep Rooney and Gerrard on to work on their partnership."

    Dangerous game to play even though a B side should still win. There's been plenty of times England have played supposedly inferior sides with no chance and they have got a result off us.

    Win the 2 games we need to win, secure qualification and then try some new guys/things out.

  • Comment number 45.

    Post 38. "England have a miserable history since '66. They should not be seeded and consequently should not be in the top 20 until they can prove themselves to be somewhat of a consistent team."

    Visualhonestpete, I think you'll find that England's recent results place them at No. 6 in the FIFA World Rankings despite not qualifying for Euro 2008 and No. 4 in the ELO rankings so we must be doing something right.

  • Comment number 46.

    Tough qualifying games are always away at the end of a long season with a difficult technical team (and its porous defence). England by the odd goal. Take the 3 points, same again against Andorra. Cappello is a winner. I don't care as long as we win, qualify for WC 2010 then quitely prepare during next season. Experiment with players after qualification, so we have 30 strong squad players from which 22 travel to South Africa. I'm sick of 66 nostalgia stories - I watched the final then on TV and now want to taste again England winning the World Cup.

  • Comment number 47.

    I' for one, am glad that England are FINALLY playing a game that means something! every time I see the phrase 'international friendly' on a television listings page I always look what else is on... 2-0 to England but forsee a good and entertaining game

  • Comment number 48.

    The shooting can be put into context quite easily, MrBlueBurns.

    It took place in the capital city of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek. Therefore the shooting happened in a different country and probably has nothing to do with the Kazakhs!

    As for why it happened, I'm not so sure.

  • Comment number 49.

    Breaking News - Sky Sports Football Live Exclusive News every 20 minutes - Kaka may be moving to Madrid....or not.

  • Comment number 50.

    Phil, thanks for warm article!

    Hi everybody from Almaty. Im Kazakh. For me just interesting to read what do people say ahead of this game in Britain.

    Everyone here in Almaty lives with this game. There is simply huge demand for tickets while our stadium capacity limited to 27 thousand only. However, local authorities said big-screen live watch will be organized in every large city of Kazakhstan (at least at two squares in Almaty). One local TV commentator said whole 15 million population of KZ will switch attention to the game on 6 June@21.00. And Im sure of that! It just absolute madness here ahead of this game which really inspire. As none of the KZ teams would reach Champions League group stages (within next 20 years IMHO) or qualify for Euro/ WC these qualifying games are the only way to watch local footballers struggle with world stars. And England is at the top of the list since our acceptance to Europe in 2002.
    I agree we have no chances, but miracles sometimes happen :) The home games of which we can proud were 2-1 win over Serbia and 2-2 (after 0-2 half-time defeat) against Belgium in 2007. Individually our footballers are absolute rubbish, but for spirit and desire to prove themselves (especially against top team) I should give them a credit. And of course supporters. The fans of course not so organized like e.g. at Old Trafford or Anfield, but after the match Serbians Nemanja Vidic described atmosphere at the stadium as totally stunning, twice crazier than in Turkey.
    English team landed on Wednesday night and yesterday had a light training session. It was funny to watch in TV news how local kids tried to get signed their cards by Beckham, Terry, Lampard or make a photos. Sad to say, but our stupid police blocked-off the training ground far far way from the entrance so only few agile kids could touch the stars. One 12 years old boy excitedly shook in front of the camera with his white Englands jersey. He somehow managed to get to the training ground or entrance and sign his T-shirt by almost every English player arrived here. Thats call simple respect to English players!
    My prediction 3-0 or 4-1 to England.
    But still hope for a draw, draw which equals to victory, draw which allows KZ go for a long celebration party holidays. God bless KZ :)

  • Comment number 51.

    Firstly; My wife.....? She is dead. She died in a field. It was an accident. But it doesn't matter, I have new wife now.

    I digress! Lets hope England win. I don't really care if we play badly as long as we win.

    Would love to go to Kazakhstan as I've heard lots of good things about it and the people. I thinks it's great that they are welcoming the team and our media to give them more exposure to the world.

    Waa Waa Wee Waa!!

  • Comment number 52.

    England fans have been going on about 66 for far too long now - For flip's sake - you were the home team & the only reason West Germany didn't leave with the trophy is because of an outrageous (arguably the worst ever & none of these famous refereeing errors this season comes close) 'decision' from the referee & linesman of the day. Has it been your 'respect' for officials that has led you to conveniently ignore this fact ?
    PS the 70 England team in Mexico were far superior.

  • Comment number 53.

    Sporting Learnings of Kazakhstan make Benefit (Past) Glorious Nation of England.

    Jak sie masz?!

    My sister (no. 4 in Kazakhstan) would like to meet Mr Cashley (no. 3 in England)

  • Comment number 54.

    #50 - thank you for that comment, it's great to hear the views from a football-loving local, wherever the home nations travel.

    Phil hits it on the head - Kazakhstan is a resource-rich, confident young country which seems to be bucking the global trend and has a lot to offer their guests. Borat was a bit offensive but I'm sure our Kazakh chums have seen the funny side. "Look at that stupid man, pretending to be one of us," etc. etc.

    As for the football, I watched the reverse fixture on the telly and again #50 nails it. Kazakhstan's squad is mostly comprised of young, energetic players who will give it one hell of a go, but lack the technical skill (and the 90-minute fitness levels) to seriously threaten a "top-level" team such as England. If England play a decent game they should win by 2 or 3, but naturally I wouldn't count out a surprise home win either. It would be funny.

    I'm sure the atmosphere in Almaty will be great, and the game an intriguing occasion, but here in sunny Caernarfon, deepest darkest North Wales, finding a pub that will willingly show the game will be quite a task!

    Stupid Setanta.

  • Comment number 55.

    is there a confirmed line up yet?
    Capello's not doing the "gerrard on the left and lampard in the middle" combo is he?

  • Comment number 56.

    @54, more like 'Look at those stupid Americans, believing that he is one of us'. Or, if they have seen the tv show, l'ook at those stupid British people, believing that he is one of us'. The ignorance displayed by the people meeting borat was disgusting, disturbing, and funny at the same time. How anyone could have believed that he was a Kazakhstanian reporter is, well, actually not that shocking given the stupidity of most people.

  • Comment number 57.

    I think that as nice as the country of Kazakhstan may appear to the English (or others with an interest in this match), the match is the only thing that matters and not the cultural benefits that Kazakhstan has to offer. Although it's one thing to say that the stars of England are idolised by the Kazakhs, it doesn't mean that the feeling is reciprocated as Mr. Zhailin would like it to be - I doubt many people will give Kazakhstan much thought outside the ninety minutes, which may well be unfortunate.

  • Comment number 58.

    Kazakhstan will play on pure adrenallin for 60 minutes, until they run out of steam. If they get lucky and score, who knows, this is their world cup final. In the 1950 World Cup qualifier, football minnows USA beat mighty England 1-0, despite only getting one shot on goal and defending for the other 89 miutes.
    Travelling to Almaty and time differences will only be a factor if England lose.

  • Comment number 59.

    Firstly, finally i managed to make an account ( my old email adress wouldn't let the confirmation email even come through to my junk mail )

    Secondly, glad i cut my part time hours so i can see the game on saturday (although i should be revising A level history, Ha!)

    I think a lot of people forget that all football is at the end of the day is 11 men against 11 men, yes millions in professional training and pampering do slice the odds some what, but i think the attitude that a lot of us have ( this will be a boring but comfortable win ) is half the reason england haven't gone that extra mile in recent years

    As for having no success, i think several quarter finals and a semi, (in my 18 years following england, yes my dad had me watching gazza before i could walk let alone kick) is taken for granted some what. We have the best league in the world perhaps, and arguably the most loyal and passionate fans, ( based on numbers only) but we've gone a lot further than a lot of fans can dream. In my opinion the mass disappointment is largely due to england teams of the last decade or so being over rated by the media and as a result by the fans too. I'll just be happy if we make it to SA next year after the whole steve mclaren thing !

  • Comment number 60.

    I'd like to think the Kazakh people realise that we don't think Borat is anything like representative of them, and that the whole joke is about the ignorant of the world, not at them.

    The point is that their country isn't that well known really, as it is part of the old USSR... but most realise that it is as modern as most countries!

  • Comment number 61.

    Some have questioned the credibility of teams like Kazakhstan playing England in World Cup qualifiers, but it is the "world" cup so why should countries with a genuine feel for football be excluded?

    I can assure you from my time here, albeit brief, there is real excitement in Almaty about this game. Do not tell the people here this is a game without meaning - as I said in the blog, it goes far beyond football.

  • Comment number 62.

    Jaujeno wrote:
    Can anyone explain why Kazakhstan is part of "Europe" for the world cup qualifiers. I thought it was part of Asia!

    Actually part of KZ is in Europe. The Ural river marks the boundary between Eur and Asia - and it runs through western KZ. The KZ FA cleverly placed their HQ on the Eur side of the river in the town of Atyrau. They are desperate to increase the competitiveness of their football and so want to be in the Euro based qualification groups...

  • Comment number 63.

    The above seems to be written entirely from the perspective of what happened in the press conference.

    I've been here since Wednesday and have found the locals to be a pretty unfriendly bunch.

    And as for the city itself, think Cumbernauld and you won't be far off. Also, having watched some Kazakh television, have yet to see anything which comes close to the merits of Borat.

  • Comment number 64.

    "For Capello, it is a question of acclimatising for this lengthy, but relatively brief, trip to a country...."

    Errr, yes! "Lengthy, but brief". Journalist Phil McNulty introduces the oxymoron into his report. Perhaps he could include phrases such as 'fast but slow' and 'low but high' in his next report, just to keep us all amused. Thanks Phil!

  • Comment number 65.

    I have worked in Almaty and other cities and indeed villages in Kazakhstan and the comments of ModestMouse are greatly disingenuous. The local people are most friendly and there is a great tolerance to visitors.
    The city is very beautiful particularly with the snowcapped mountains overlooking the north of the city.
    Hotels are of a good standard or above and there is a good selection of restaurants and quasi Irish and English pubs.
    As for safety it is a city in which I have never felt at risk.
    The statement in an earlier post regarding the police blocking access to the players purely reflects the over zealousness displayed from inexperience.
    I urge the England supporters to behave, enjoy and bathe in the acceptance of the Kazak people for the beautiful game of football, which they will enjoy irrespective of who wins. They will be there for the football.
    I myself look forward to relocation there next month and hearing about the game and the honest endeavours of both teams and sets of supporters.
    As a Pompey supporter who is looking forward with great expectations of next season, I trust Johnson and Crouch make me proud.

  • Comment number 66.

    England must concentrate on the job in hand and remain professional and keep their shape. Kazakhstan, like many minnows in the World of Football will get men behind the ball and make it difficult to play and the home crowd will be patriotic. I expect England to win but not a landslide.

    http://jonnyontheball.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 67.

    0-0

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 69.

    How can players say they are tired, these are world class atheletes, they are young men at the absolute peak of physical excellence.

    If I was a footballer, playing the game I love, and getting paid for it, I would play morning, noon and night, whenever, wherever.

    Most normal folk have much more tiring jobs and receive a tiny percentage in wages of footballers. Tiredness is not an issue.

  • Comment number 70.

    They're not doing 35 hours a week plus playing football.

    -------------

    They are spending 6 hours a day training, it's not like they jut roll up on a Saturday for a match.

    Even if they did they probably exert more effort and burn more calries in 90 minutes than you and I do in a 36 hour working week.

  • Comment number 71.

    The comment by chesterbigpat is interesting saying Kazakhstan are in the European section of FIFA to increase the competitiveness of their football.

    I can understand his/her comment but surely playing in an Asian group where they have less chance of getting spanked every qualifier would be better than at present. Better to have the experience if winning a few games than demoralising defeat after defeat

  • Comment number 72.

    I suspect your man who got shot was spilling out the usual irrelevant bile that follows the English around...Singing things like 'No Surrender' to bemused foriegners 1,2 and 3000 miles away as per usual meets with someone finally reacting.

    England have qualified barring an unbelievable collapse, SA is in for a treat.

  • Comment number 73.

    Firstly I know this is a BBC site but for all of you out there whining about it being on Setanta- 12.99 a month- bet you all spend more than that going to the pub watching it!

    And I'm English but I hope the Kazakhs get a point, just to see the reaction we get from muppets like Graham Taylor and his cliche-toting buddies!
    Also whoever said Israel's not in Europe- true but UEFA and Eurovision say they are lol

  • Comment number 74.

    why the critism of setanta. they paid the money. if anyone should be criticised it should be the organisation which sold them the rights to the matches. they didn't have to.

  • Comment number 75.

    Modest Mouse, clearly you're walking around with your eyes closed!

    I was in Almaty last summer and it is a great city. Yeah there are remnants of it's soviet past but that's it's history and no bad thing. Cumbernauld is over-egging it slightly! Nature flows into the city from the mountainsides to make it a very green city indeed. It's not tamed but that's a great quality.

    There are fantastic statues all around the city too and the Cathederal is like a mini St. Basil's of Moscow.

    If you have a bit of time I recommend going to big Almaty Lake. It'll take you half a day to go there and come back.

    The people I met (mostly in their 20's) were very keen to talk about football, I met Liverpool and Man U fans and they knew about lower league teams and clearly appreciated the game.

    I'm supporting England but i'll be watching in London with a Kazakh friend

    ENGLAND!

  • Comment number 76.

    I find it very hard these days to get excited about an england international. The thought of some of the premiers leagues elite on the same team makes me shudder. How can these players hate eachother and eachothers clubs all season and then be expected not only to play together but to form solid partnerships with one another. It doesnt work in my eyes and thats why in lifetime (I am only 25) england will not win a trophy. Even as a huge football fan i couldnt care less. I find it increasingly difficult to cheer for players i have spent a whole season wanting to lose games. For once lets all be honest, James, Neville, Lescott, Lampard, David Nuggent and Co will never win a world cup - FACT!

  • Comment number 77.

    why is it all utd fans do is complain. even when we're talking england. first negative comment on here....utd fan. you guys have it too easy. glory hunters

  • Comment number 78.

    Let's be honest, everyone knows it's going to be really boring. Kazakhstan are just there for the attention, while England only have to turn up to win. Plus it will be made worse by idiotic pundits and TV commentators harping on about what an great game it is and referring to Borat every 2 minutes.

  • Comment number 79.

    63. At 07:28am on 05 Jun 2009, ModestMouse wrote:
    I've been here since Wednesday and have found the locals to be a pretty unfriendly bunch.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Maybe its coz of your awful british accent, no offence u know, but its' completely true...

  • Comment number 80.

    After the last England game on Setanta the bbc published an article with quotes from Gordon Brown saying he wants to get football back on the free channels aswell other sports.. absolutely nothing has been done. Like when the ashes was on channel 4 it was amazing so sky jumped on the bandwagon and now thats wrecked too.. such a shame.

  • Comment number 81.

    Kazakhstan is not in Europe. End of story, the Capital is closer to Beijing and Tashkent than any other European capital. I don't understand why nations like Israel and Kazakhstan don't play in the Asian WCQ groups. I've nothing against these two countries, but it is unfair that all the European teams have to trek half way across Asia to play a game of football. And don't give me any of that diplomacy bull about "supporting a young nation's psyche". They're not in Europe, they don't speak a European language, they are culturally and genetically more Mongolian and Turkic than European. Why let them play in Europe?

    This similarly applies to Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. If you go by geographical logic, you would have to allow Iran to play in Europe as well.

    The logic of former USSR nations being eligible is also flawed: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kirgistan all play in the Asian tournaments. We'll have Afghanistan applying next. That would be fun now, wouldn't it?

  • Comment number 82.

    Re 10:22am on 05 Jun 2009, bluetrimmtrab

    From the KZ perspective they have a few issues in mind. 1st there is precedent of teams getting better over time against top opposition - Turkey being the best example in football of a country that could compete Asia or Europe. In rugby, Italy is the example I guess.
    2nd their players could be picked up by interested european sides & have them playing decent quality football.
    3rd KZ gets higher general profile playing in Euro zone & probably more money from home / away fixtures.

    Personally, if I was a player I would agree with you - getting spanked every game is no fun. But I guess they are taking a longer term perspective.

  • Comment number 83.

    Bluetrimmtrab: Professional footballers are top athletes and as such they have to put in a lot more work than just 6 hours training each weekday. Looking beyond your little box, think about how they have to adapt their lives to remain in top notch first class physical form (except maybe the portly Mr Lampard). Then on top of all that there is the pressure to perform and maintain that level of performance. Its not so easy to be earning top dollar and most of them are in that position on merit. Good luck to `em I say. I wish it was me.

  • Comment number 84.

    In actual fact, in order to avoid playing pointless fixtures against the likes of San Marino, Andorra, Malta and Kazakstan, there should be pre-qualifiers for these teams (similar to the CL and UEFA Cup preliminaries). I know the PC Brigade with bits in their hair are going to slate this post for being eurocentric, arrogant and condescending. But let's be honest, no-one wants to watch these fixtures anyway. Secondly, it would actually provide these nations with more football than they are currently getting. I suggest the lowest ranking 32 teams in Europe (including the likes of Austria, Wales, Northern Ireland and Serbia...) play in preliminary qualifiers.

  • Comment number 85.

    hackerjack@70 - 6 hours' training a day, are you having a laugh? Three hours more like, they're gone by lunchtime

  • Comment number 86.

    I think the media and fans are over rating the England team again. Capello has dont a wonderful job no doubt, but this is still a team that can't and won't beat the bigger teams. Still a team that scrapes past the so called 'minnows'.

    Englands main strength is defence and midfield. We don't have a world class keeper and the only world class striker is Rooney who isn't really a goalscorer. Kazakhstan are a team on the up, while England have been on the down since the 90s. The quality in the 90s was far superior than what we have today. Lets just look at the strikers of the 90s, alan shearer, michael owen, andy cole, teddy sheringham, and those that didn't even get selected like matt le tissier. Now look at the ones we have now, Wayne Rooney, Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch, Agbonlahor. We need to lose our arrogance and realise were not a threat on the world stage anymore.

    as for Kazahkstan, don't underestimate them. Sergey Ostapenko, watch out for him, he has scored 3 goals in this euro qualification campaign. am i correct to say that englands top scorer is wayne rooney on 5? I think that shows that have someone that can atleast compete for goals. Kazahkstan have scored 6 goals all through this campaign and average 1.2 goals a game, so they do have a threat.

  • Comment number 87.

    When we manage to scrape a 1-0 win, I've no doubt the players will claim that "There are no easy games in international football". If we're not that much better than the opposition, why are our players on £135k a week, while the opposition is made up of postmen and factory workers?

  • Comment number 88.

    Hello, my English guests.
    Speaking about forthcoming game, I will say - one thing only. It will be your fault, not our success, if you fail to get all three points.
    Its obvious, your side is much more stronger than ours, still, there is hope. You know, there is saying among us the pitch is square and the ball is round it means football is an unpredictable sport, thats way it is loved by millions.
    There are two strong reasons why I prey God to give us at least a draw.
    First: I am Kazakh, thus a patriot.
    Second: someday, somewhat and somehow we must revenge for that disgusting and stupid Borat.
    You ought to know that he has nothing to do with our country. He absolutely knows nothing about our people and culture.
    P.S. I hope, finally we are gonna have a cold day in hell after that match.

  • Comment number 89.

    Post 8. West London Blues, the reports are not accurate. The group in question was having a drink in Bishkek, a chat and a laugh. They were not singing.

    Post 72. BigOldHeid, your suspicions (should that be national prejudices) are wrong. Not saying that all England supporters are angels (having travelled away for more than 10 years, I know that's not the case - but I also know that media reports are normally hugely exaggerated), but netiher are all members of the "Tartan Army - the best supporters in the world (TM)". I've heard "No surrender to the BNP" sung more recently by England supporters than "No surrender to the IRA". I suppose we could always ask the shopkeepers of Paris whether they would welcome the "Tartan Army - the best supporters in the world (TM)" back to their city with open arms.

  • Comment number 90.

    1-1. England play like complete tools.
    They say letting David James in goal is like letting a monkey fly a plane...
    Yak-shimash!

  • Comment number 91.

    "Can anyone explain why Kazakhstan is part of "Europe" for the world cup qualifiers. I thought it was part of Asia!"

    Same could be said of Israel.

  • Comment number 92.

    Post 89 -

    Unsure of the relevance to the Paris shopkeepers; I presume you travelled there as well. Surely it can't be another case of english fans trying to offset their own appaling reputation my trying to muddy someone elses? Surely not.

    National prejudices and experience & observations are different things. But then you have been travelling for ten whole years, so I bow to your insight.

    England away fans in 'It Wasn't Our Fault' shocker.

  • Comment number 93.

    What is this (cheese).
    And what is this (cheese)
    And what is this (cheese)
    .....(ad infenitum)

  • Comment number 94.

    Do no other England fans find this a little derogatory and somewhat insulting, especially towards Kazakhstan? To consider what are ultimately a bunch of underachievers as royalty when they consistently fail to deliver is laughable in my eyes.

    I don't doubt that people will pose for photos, I would if Crouchy strolled into my local boozer, but it wouldn't be a defining moment in my life, just as I doubt it would be a defining moment in a country's history!

    Pull ya head out Phil!

  • Comment number 95.

    No81: Stokerambo

    Think you will find the capital of Kazakhstan - Astana not Almaty is 1400miles from Moscow and 2300 from Beijing. It's also closer to Riga, Talinn, Baku, tblisi, Kiev and Helsinki. In addition the ethnic make up of Kazakstan is Kazakhs 46 percent, Russians 34.7 percent, Ukrainians 4.9 percent, Germans 3.1 percent, Uzbeks 2.3 percent, Tartar 1.9 percent, and others 7.1 percent - based on this circa 40%+ of the population is of European or Turkic descent.

    Majority of Russia lies to the East of the Urals - should they not be in UEFA either? Look at the example of the Aussies playing in the Asian Federation as they want to develop their football.

    As for the person saying shouldn't they play in AFC to avoid spankings - the purpose of playing in UEFA is to develop their domestic game, they are a very very young country and football nation who are improving with every qualifier. With their resources and growing population they will be in a major tournament within 20 years and domestically will have a team in the Champions League groups in the same period.

    On the Borat thing most Kazakhs see that the joke was not against them but against the numbskulls in the US and UK who believe he is real. Just as I am sure Austrians, male models and camp blokes see Bruno as a joke against the same group not the character.

  • Comment number 96.


    Hey, Beep, can you please remind your fans that Khazhazstan is an Asian country and was trounced 5-nil at home, recently, to Belarus. So please,don't make them look good, as your scoops do before your matches.Truth is they won't even trouble your keeper and the score should be about 6 to 8 goals, without reply.

    And please don't use the words, legend or quality when your roonies or walcotts score against the Asian minnows.Iran, Korea or even Japan would probably trounced them too.

    And this is a good time for the english to play keep ball. Like Barcelona.If they can, that is.

  • Comment number 97.

    It shouldn't be difficult to grasp why Israel is in UEFA rather that the Asian Federation.

    I get sick of hearing that England shouldn't be playing teams like Andora and the likes. They are nations in their own right. Why do the English or anyone else that shows this arogance think they have the right to say, sorry, you're not good enough for our elite club. I bet half of those saying it still think there's an Empire and wish it was still 1945.

    I wonder what war and jingoistic songs will be wheeled out for SA by the english commercial radio stations (one in particular) and War-orientated headlines in the Red Tops.

  • Comment number 98.

    Post 92. BigOldHeid. Try reading instead of jumping to conclusions. Not all England fans are angels. Neither are all members of the "Tartan Army - the best supporters in the world (TM)". Funny how one set of supporters have an "appalling reputation" while another lot are only ever guilty of high jinks, any attempt to claim otherwise being "muddying the waters".

    And no, I wasn't in Paris when the "Tartan Army - the best supporters in the world (TM)" were last there. I have, however, discussed at length with my old next door neighbour (who, by pure coincidence, is a Paris shopkeeper) the looting (his word, not mine) undertaken by men in kilts that afternoon.

  • Comment number 99.

    I worked in Atyrau, KZ for two years and travelled to Almaty a number of times so here is my handle on the country.

    As mentioned previously Kazakhstan is partly in Europe partly in Asia, the Ural river is the defining line and this is way over on the Western side of KZ in Atyrau. Perhaps 1/4 is in Europe the rest is in Asia.

    Post 43 - The vast majority of people in Kazakhstan are not European they are Asian.

    Friendly? Some of the people that I worked with were very friendly and open, but the vast majority of locals did not treat you in a friendly manner (even considering the Soviet emotionless body language) and Atyrau in particular was a very dangerous place with a huge number of attacks on foreigners.

    Kazakhs have quite a Gypsy attitude, many choosing to carry their wealth in gold teeth, Blokes wear big watches, Shiny suits, pointy patent shoes and drive land cruisers. The women are always immaculately turned out. One-up-manship is a big part of life in KZ

    Almaty was very different on the face of it, in many ways a developing European style city but with a huge emphasis on developing.

    Kazakhstan is in a very important time in their history and they are trying to find their own identity and shake off the Soviet tag. But there is still a lot of Soviet style paranoia

    The investment in places like Astana and Almaty appears to be a reflection of Dubai, but I found it vulgar when you turn a corner and see the poverty that some Kazakhs are living in.

    The time difference in Almaty is + 5 hrs on the UK in Summer so it does make a difference and importantly Kazakhstan will be very hot now, but Almaty should be slightly cooler because of the mountainous region.

    Borat was completely misplaced and the anger of the Kazakhs towards the film shows the naivity of the country, they are were embarassed that the world saw them in this way, but didn't look closely enough to realise the joke was on the USA not them. I heard that they thought Borat had been funded by Uzbekistan to discredit them (Paranoia again). Borat was Factually incorrect in many ways, but touching on being so close to the truth in others. I actually saw a guy lean out of a car window and shoot a dog for no reason!

    For England fans going (unfortunately I wasn't able to go back for the game) I think they'll be pleasantly surprised with what they see. I'm not sure how fans will be treated, but when given a chance to play host Kazakhs will try their upmost to ensure the guests are entertained.

    My tips: Drink the vodka, try the shashlik but avoid the bishbarmak and Cumis!

    Finally, the women are stunning and really know how to dress to impress

  • Comment number 100.

    Post 98 - I love that (TM) joke...It's a cracker.

    You're trying to convince me of two things now

    1. You can shoplift wearing a kilt. Where would you stash the loot?!

    2. You also claim that 'No Surrender to the BNP' is sung by England fans.

    Damien you have made my weekend, particularly point 2.

    Good luck in the World Cup, sadly I doubt Scotland will be there.

    Our absence solves the main security problem though, the police and shopkeepers of SA will be relieved to hear...!

 

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