Thursday, 4 June 2009

England Football Fan Shot in Kyrgyzstan

Sweating on the cross trainer in the gym I noticed a headline about Kyrgyzstan scrolling across the bottom of the Sky News screen. Sadly it was not a positive one; an England football fan had been shot in the leg. Great, I thought, now news channels will be negative about Kyrgyzstan.

Having lived there for three years I know Kyrgyzstan to be a refreshingly remote country of vast and beautiful mountains and wonderfully hospitable people. Where else could you turn up at a remote yurt (felt tent) in the dead of night and be welcomed in to drink fermented mare's milk, eat cold sheep fat and sleep in a squashed but cosy huddle with the family?

Back home I went on line to the Sky News site to find out more - apparently this is the second most clicked story on Sky today.

Click here for story.

Reading the piece I felt relieved - in my opinion the England football fan came off with the negative publicity, not Kyrgyzstan. He and four others had been chanting in a bar in the capital, Bishkek, and had refused to stop when a local asked them to. So one was shot. Okay, this is not normal, sociable behaviour that I should condone - but then neither is obnoxiously chanting football slogans in someone else's country.

I read that the fan had the bullet removed in a local hospital - that will have been punishment enough as Kyrgyz hospitals are archaic with no modern equipment and little sanitation.

For most people, visiting Kyrgyzstan is pure pleasure. With little tourist infrastructure every day is an adventure but you are rewarded by being able to explore in isolation, your route free from tour party coaches, your view unmarred by hoards of other people.

I would recommend Kyrgyzstan to any traveller keen to see an unspoilt part of the world. If you want to stand in a bar and chant football slogans, go elsewhere. For everyone else, the only shot you'll get will be vodka.

If you'd like to read about my three year adventure in Kyrgyzstan, which included a revolution and many visits to local hospitals, you might be interested in my book Revolution Baby: Motherhood and Anarchy in Kyrgyzstan. You can find out more at my website

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