(Oh. I’m not actually a fan of sports. Nevermind.)
A friend invited me and Farrell to a World Cup qualifying game between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek national teams. I considered that there was at least a moderate potential for rioting, so I grabbed my camera and went along.
The attitude of the group I went with was pretty indifferent; Uzbekistan had beat Kyrgyzstan 4-0 in the first qualifying match and they didn’t seem too invested in Kyrgyzstan’s predictable loss that day (3-0).
(Kyrgyzstan in white, going for a goal.)
(Uh, not quite.)
The stadium cheered anyway. The moment one of Kyrgyzstan’s players even touched the ball, the crowd would flip out. Hardcore fans led chants of “КЫР-ГЫЗ-СТАН! КЫР-ГЫЗ-СТАН!” and some people even tried to start a wave going through the crowd (though, every time it would start in the middle of the stands and spread toward the ends).
The first half ended with no goals; there was still a chance for Kyrgyzstan. But Uzbekistan was clearly the better team and ended up scoring three goals in the second half, the last one in the last 30 seconds of the game.
There were no riots, no troubles (other than one fist-fight that was quickly broken up by the swarms of police officers in attendance). The audience was civil with the loss, and as far as I could tell, the heckling was limited to a certain Uzbek player’s lack of hair instead of any inflammatory racist comments. On the other hand, the audience wasn’t nice either; I couldn’t believe the absolute silence in a crowd of thousands when the Uzbek team scored their goals.
It doesn’t look like Kyrgyzstan will make it to the World Cup, but it was an entertaining way to spend a gorgeous Bishkek summer night. (And cheap! Tickets were 50 som, a little over one dollar.)
Enjoy the photos. I would have loved to get a pink press vest and to have stood on the field to take photos (despite that one photographer took a stray ball to the face), but I settled for the stands. Next time I’ll just fake a pass and an entitled attitude and try to get some on-the-ground shots.