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England embrace Almaty mission

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Phil McNulty | 15:03 UK time, Friday, 5 June 2009

Almaty, Kazakhstan

England's main mission on their long trek east to Kazakhstan is to take another stride towards next summer's World Cup in South Africa - but diplomacy is also on the Football Association's agenda.

While coach Fabio Capello and his backroom team make adjustments to combat the effects of jetlag from the 3,500-mile journey, the FA has been ensuring England's warm welcome off the field in Almaty has been reciprocated.

England's presence in Almaty has been the catalyst for another demonstration of the power of the Premier League.

A group of Kazakhstan-based Liverpool fans gathered outside England's hotel as they made the short journey to the Central Stadium on Friday, and the colours of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal were prominent in the crowd as they went through their work out.

This game has gripped the imagination of Almaty and the whole of Kazakhstan, and the FA has taken steps to ensure they embrace the interest they have created.

The FA's director of communications Adrian Bevington told me: "The people here have been very friendly to us. They have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome. And you can sense from them, without us trying to sound big time or patronising in any way, that they are very proud to be hosting the England team.

"Our players are very famous here because of the exposure of the Premier League around the world, and the most important thing from our point of view is that we are very respectful to them.

England captain John Terry meets the locals

"We had some children in for training on Thursday from the local orphanage. They came in for 20 minutes, and we also had some children from the local English school come along. The players really enjoyed the experience and we're sure the children did as well.

"The players don't get much time to go out of the hotel because obviously they are here to do a job and need to prepare meticulously, but ultimately it is also important we show respect to our hosts during our time in Almaty and I think we have been.

"On Saturday Sir Trevor Brooking and Gordon Taylor, along with some England fans, will lay a wreath at the war memorial in Almaty. This is again about showing respect to our hosts in a country that was part of the former Soviet Union.

"It is definitely a different type of trip. It is a long journey and it is a different type of place to those we have been to before, but it has been a very good experience."

And that long journey has shaped Capello's planning as England attempt to make it six wins out of six in their World Cup qualifying campaign.

Bevington explained some of the tweaks to normal routines and advice given to players in an attempt to ensure all travel fatigue is out of their system at kick-off time on Saturday.

He said: "We flew out a day earlier than we normally would to try and counteract the time difference and the jetlag. The players were advised to stay awake if possible on the flight and when we got to our hotel late on Wednesday night go straight to bed.

"Even though they weren't all naturally tired, they were asked to go to bed and sleep as much as possible. They were then asked to be up at 9.30am on Thursday. This meant they were quickly into a routine and pattern and were tired in the evening.

"There are still some of the players who haven't slept as well as they would normally do, but a lot of the players are already into the right sleep patterns and certainly by Saturday they should all be ok.

"Training on Friday is a little bit earlier than the match would be, but it is really more important about the time they get up in the morning. On Thursday it was a 9.30am wake up call, on Friday morning it was 9am.

"It is really all about little nuances that have been introduced to help them in a situation where they have travelled so far, and obviously as always the preparation of Fabio and his staff has been meticulous for this trip and the journey we have undertaken."

England will seek one more adjustment before kick-off late on Saturday evening in Almaty. They will ask for another shaving of grass to be taken off a less-than-perfect playing surface at the Central Stadium.

Capello put his players through their paces on Friday evening. And if Kazakhstan's defence is a vigilant and uncompromising as the pitchside security during the open part of the session, it could yet be a long night for England.

It was a long day on Friday for match referee Kristinn Jokabsson from Iceland, whose flight from London was delayed and was not scheduled to arrive in Almaty until 11pm local time.

Once again the locals were out in force around the Central Stadium to give a rousing welcome their own players as well as England's, adding to a real sense of occasion accompanying Capello's team in this distant location.

One of the vagaries of a bustling city is taxi travel - with even the shortest journey an adventure. Road markings do not appear to be the basis of the rules of the road, simply the opening of negotiations between drivers.

Drivers also have the unnerving habit of abruptly stopping to allow pedestrians to cross the road, a test of nerve and even pace without the comforting presence of a zebra crossing. Some cars come to a halt to offer unsolicited lifts to chosen destinations - a pastime not to be encouraged.

There can be real risks attached and the FA was once again at pains to emphasise a message delivered to all supporters here about the dangers of unlicenced taxis.

Bevington said: "We would strongly advise our supporters not to use these unlicenced taxis. The people here have been very friendly and welcoming, but we would ask our supporters to be vigilant in not using these taxis."

The FA, however, have been delighted by the warmth of their welcome in Kazakhstan and have also fostered good relations with the locals, elated to have superstars such as David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in their midst.

The goodwill will not extend to Saturday's World Cup qualifier - with Capello refusing to let guard down for a second as he insisted travel would provide no excuse for failure against Kazakhstan.

Nothing has been left to chance off the pitch, now England need to complete the mission in the Central Stadium.


  • Comment number 1.

    Its great that Kazakhstan are so welcoming of us but I think Capello's right. Tiredness is not an excuse for failure.

    Great blog as ever.

    First Comment! :)

  • Comment number 2.

    Nice to see the players doing their bit off the pitch too- hope all fans get home safely.

  • Comment number 3.

    Ive been to Kazakhstan before and its incredible how friendly the people out there are considering how poor they are, they go out of there way to make you feel as at home as possible. They're a great country and I know how much England playing there will mean to them.

  • Comment number 4.

    Its great to see the fans reacting so well to the English players, its a great way of promoting the beautiful game.

  • Comment number 5.

    I worked in Kazakhstan in 2005. I found the people to be very proud of their independence from Russia and desperate for international recognition. I think its great that the England players are making an effort to reciprocate their natural friendliness. Just watch out for the food. Worse than Finland (and we won the Olympics because of their terrible food). Hoping for a great match. Six out out six would be fab.

  • Comment number 6.

    It is so nice to hear a country going out of its way to accomodate a visiting team. Let's hope those supporters who have travelled so far enjoy the hospitality and behave themselves.

  • Comment number 7.

    Good blog as usual, but I do think that 3 blogs before we play a match that we are really expected to win and is not being eagerly anticpated is a bit of overkill, I mean how much do we really need to know about Kazakhstan, or any other opposing nation for that matter?

  • Comment number 8.

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

  • Comment number 9.

    If and a very big if we mess up from this position we should give up playing footbvall as a nation as we are firmly in the driving force. Plus not to mention we have a great and very well experienced squad that should see us over the line and look forward to a summer of footie next year with no brollies AKA Mclaren. We are looking a side that has belief again but just lacking a predator finisher like Owen, as the critics have duly been harsh and without injuries he is one of the finest English strikers we have produced. C'mon England we are behind u 110%

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm glad to see such strong efforts going into the off-the-field activities and responsibilites.

    As for the game itself, I just get the feeling it's going to be one of those scrappy awkward 1-0 kind of games. It's been a fair break and momentum is always important.

  • Comment number 11.

    Don't worry about the time difference and jet lag, Phil.

    You forget that these fine English footballers are seasoned night-clubbers who are completely accustomed to being sleep deprived due to their predilection for staying out until unearthly hours. Unnatural patterns of sleep are part of their job description.

    It won't be a problem. There's no great difference between a sojourn in Almaty and catching a taxi in Piccadilly at 4am when you have training at 9am the same morning.

  • Comment number 12.

    No-one talking about the fan getting shot in the leg in Kyrgyzstan then?

  • Comment number 13.

    Looking forward to a good match and hoping for an England victory, shame i won't be able to watch it and will have to stick to highlights.

    Great to see such a welcome for us in Kazakhstan and for this I have great respect for them. I hope that this is indicative of general support around the world for us with an eye on 2018 even if Kazakh support would be towards Russia.

    Good blog Phil

  • Comment number 14.

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

  • Comment number 15.

    We here in the devoloped world use preservatives, and insecticides, that is why our food is better, that is why we have a greater life expectancy, income and general standard of living than you and your people.

    Yaeh right, maybe that's why you have so many overweights? You have no clue How the real food should taste like. I am not going to argue with, and leave you in your imaginary feeling of prosperity.

  • Comment number 16.

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

  • Comment number 17.


    I think its pretty harsh to insult Kazak food when you haven't even tried it. Much of there food is traditionally cooked, hearty and quite tasty (not much fruit and veg' though :)). And to link the use of preservatives and insecticidesto income and standard of living isn't exactly the most insightful of comments.


    All english food isn't the same, we do have good food over here, with a wide variety of fresh ingredients - please dont base our food on what you see in supermarkets!!! That type of food is for people who do not have the time to cook a proper meal.

    Also, I realise that you are from another country so English is not your 1st language, but just a tip - it is spelt 'cuisine', not 'cousin'. Cousin is a relation within your family, so to say that you have eaten British cousin sounds a little bit sadistic.

    Anyway, well done to the FA for getting our players involved with the local Kazak community, putting in the 'hearts and minds' operation now will have a beneficial impact between both countries for years to come.

    Good Luck for Saturday boys!!

  • Comment number 18.

    All english food isn't the same, we do have good food over here, with a wide variety of fresh ingredients - please dont base our food on what you see in supermarkets!!! That type of food is for people who do not have the time to cook a proper meal.

    It's a shame, that there aren't many British restaurants in London. Perhaps, it's because they are not so popular among the local population?

  • Comment number 19.

    'It's a shame, that there aren't many British restaurants in London. Perhaps, it's because they are not so popular among the local population?'

    Ahh, there you go you see, you are basing your experiences on the big city of London. I live in the north of England, and often visit quality restauraunts with many michelin stars that use only local ingredients to prduce fantastic food.

    You cannot base a whole nation (or their people) from experiences from one particular place. It would be like me saying 'I dont like people from Kazakhstan because I met a few people in Astana who were rude' or 'Kazakhstan food isnt very nice, I had one meal in Almaty that was horrible!'

    Britain is much more than London, as Kazakhstan is much more than Almaty.

  • Comment number 20.

    Well said feistycheese,

    Why is english food so misunderstood in this world, let's send Gordon Ramsey to the Kazaks for a few weeks, they may learn a few things, but more imortantely, let's hope the lads such as Beck's, Rooney, Gerrard and so on can teach the so called friendly nation about football, come on lads, i'm stuck in Canada missing the action...

  • Comment number 21.

    I'm not sure why the comments have turned out to be about British vs Kazakhs food. In any case, I think, there's a lack of tolerance and respect in "johnsmith" & "goonerinho" comments. And I applaud "feistycheese" for the balanced and laudable comments. Just to clarify, I'm neither British nor Kazakhs.
    Back to the blog, I'm glad that this match transcends more than just being a football match, but rather as a bond for human relations.

  • Comment number 22.

    Thanks to poster 21 for bringing the debate back to the football and tonight's World Cup qualifier. The Football Association is to be given credit to taking on board the unique aspects of this trip and doing its bit to ensure the Khazaks get the most out of England's visit.

    Attention will turn to events on the pitch tonight. It is another warm day here in Almaty, although the temperatures are comfortable. I've just taken a walk to the team hotel and Fabio Capello looked relaxed as he sat in the reception area talking with members of his backroom team.

  • Comment number 23.

    "We had some children in for training on Thursday from the local orphanage".

    I'm sorry but this sounds like some scene from a Charles Dickens novel. Whoever is in charge of PR at the FA certainly knows how to tug at the heartstrings. They just can't leave the Premier League and its brand alone can they? If they were letting children from an orphanage train with players and had no ulterior motives, then great. But that is not what the FA is all about sadly.

  • Comment number 24.

    NikosBg, you havesuch an extensive and traceable history of whinging anti-british opinion that it surprises me that you spend so much time on this site. I for one wish you wouldn't. Don't you have online media in your country?

  • Comment number 25.

    Just staying up on the flight and then getting to bed late with a 9 30 am start is not the way to beat jet-lag. The players will still be waking up at 4 am on the morningof the game, but I still expect them to win.

  • Comment number 26.

    To poster 23...this is an uncharitable view in the extreme of what the Football Association have been doing here.

    This was not, I can assure you, an attempt by Adrian Bevington to "tug at the heartstrings." I asked him the question about what the FA had been doing with the local community since England arrived.

    And quite what the Premier League brand has to do with it I do not understand.

    Instead of criticising the FA and putting a negative spin on its efforts, why not offer praise for delighting the local children and giving them an experience they will probably remember for the rest of their lives?

  • Comment number 27.

    I'm sorry Phil, but I do not agree one bit with you. The Premier League and by the extension, the FA - have announced this week that they are going to let people in 'emerging markets' watch the Premier League free in order to raise brand awareness. Kazakhstan is exactly the type of market that the Premier League are targeting. This is not the act of charity that it might first appear.

    I am sure the children will remember this experience for the rest of their lives, and I hope the same children do not grow to be an old cynic like me, but as an old cynic I cannot see this as being a long-term money-making exercise. I'm sorry, but that's the way I see it for right or for wrong.

  • Comment number 28.

    *cannot see this as being anything but

  • Comment number 29.

    No doubt our famous English supporters will teach the poor kazahks how to get drunk and behave in an arrogant, boorish, disrespectful, aggressive and racist way. And maybe they can do the rest of us a favour and shoot a few more of the flag waving morons...

    As for the players, good on them for making an effort to reciprocate the affection of the locals. It's a shame they have to make up for the cringeworthy behaviour of our supporters.

  • Comment number 30.

    Fans in many Asian countries and in countries bordering Asia love to pose for pictures with footballers, cricketers and tennis stars. England international footballers JT, Becks, Lamps, Gerrard and Rooney are big names and they will be closely watched by their adoring fans. Let's wish the players and their fans a fine afternoon in the Central Stadium.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 31.

    no. 29 i always find it hilarious how some idiots on this site manage to criticise all of one group of people usually the english and always seem to call them racist with no idea on how hypocrtitical this is.
    I'm not claiming that no english fans are like this but you get them everywhere and in recent years you would have to admit that we have gotten better at cutting out these hooligans.
    Finally how can you possibly say that to have someone shot is a good tihng and even pretend that you wanted more. This is just pathetic. I just suppose that with things going well for England, the players and FA acting very respectively you felt that the only group left to target was the fans.

  • Comment number 32.

    OMG!!! Was this blog about food? No lmao! Mind you, I've never tried Kazakh food, so I'll never associate with others.

    Anyway; back to the match. Comfortable victory for England if we get everything right that we should.

  • Comment number 33.

    Post 31.

    This post concentrates on my use of the word racism with respect to English travelling fans. Is anyone seriously suggesting that part of these fans' culture and view of the world is not racist? To see and hear hundreds of them chanting obscene chants about Pakistanis and Turks... To see them upset local people wherever they go...

    I don't see how any decent person could stand to be in their company or be associated with them. In this respect the whole group is self selecting - you would need to be racist or at least be prepared to sit among racists if you were going to travel with England supporters. A kind of BNP week away I guess...

  • Comment number 34.

    I like a the Englands!

    Englands for victories! Kazakhstan is number one but Englands is good nation. Strong exporter of potassium.

  • Comment number 35.

    Its strange that Kahzakstan play in the European qualifiers (as it is with Israel and various other Asian countries) - but at least it gives them a chance to see a few premier league players.

  • Comment number 36.

    post 31,Im just interested to know,have you ever followed England away from home or do you get or your information from the press?

  • Comment number 37.

    previous post was directed at post 33 not post 31

  • Comment number 38.

    It's great to hear the boys giving some special memories to the locals and the vulnerable children in Almaty. They will leave them with memories that will last forever.

    Good luck to them today. A professional and patient approach should see them to a result and once again make millions of us back home so proud.

  • Comment number 39.

    post 33 joe0697- can you seriously suggest that just because people (person A) wants to follow their team while at the same time other people (person B) who holds racist views also follows the same team that person A must also be racist. Even if A and B never meet and don't even come close you assume that this shared support of the same team makes A racist.
    I'm not saying that there is no racism from English fans but you seem to have a very set view of this and i like brightonjp i would like to know where you get this information from.

  • Comment number 40.

    Good luck to them today. A professional and patient approach should see them to a result and once again make millions of us back home so proud.
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 41.

    Hello phil, whats going on with robert green then?

  • Comment number 42.

    not answering me phillip? x


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