Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sour taste

The Crown squad before we left Phnom Penh, and before Tony was sent home from China - click to enlarge
Apologies for being absent without leave. All of Saturday was spent flying from Cambodia across a very unwelcoming China to Tajikistan (its next to Afghanistan if you need to know where it is), and then today, I've been at meetings for most of the day, ahead of an important Asian club football competition that my team, Phnom Penh Crown, are involved in. They are the reason I'm in this former Soviet-bloc country, that still feels very Russian, with police stopping our car every time we venture out. It's got trams, very wide boulevards and its population are majority Muslims, though I've yet to see a mosque. There are massive structures, a palace for this, a monument for that, all of which we are told are new. The flight over was a real downer though. We flew from Phnom Penh into Guangzhou and immediately felt the cold blast of Chinese officialdom. One of our best players, Tony Obadin, was singled out for particular attention, carted off for investigation and after an hour of not knowing what was happening, he was escorted to collect his bags, say his goodbyes and was duly despatched back home on the next flight out. Our players were completely non-plussed. The attitude of the officials at Guangzhou left a very sour taste in the mouth. Over five hours later, we arrived in Urumqi, which was marginally more friendly, before we headed for our third flight of the day, to Dushanbe, our final destination, the capital of Tajikistan and a throw-back to the communist era. Essentially a full day travelling. This morning we joined the competition's press conference, for the head coaches of the six participating teams to offer their insights into the upcoming matches. Then it was back to the hotel, the five-star Serena Hotel but service-wise, two-to-three-star at best, for lunch before another meeting, for team manager's, to check on playing colours and to go over the rules and regulations. This afternoon, the bus failed to arrive to take the team for training, until we commandeered another bus after waiting 90 minutes, just so we could get the jetlag out of our bones. We endured a few similar mind-games in last year's competition in Taiwan, lets hope we don't go through any more of the same this time around.

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