This eye witness report was written by my husband after he was referee for an American football game in Almaty, Kazakhstan for three hours. He hasn’t run that much for years nor played football since 7th grade. He actually prefers Kansas basketball and watching the Final Four playoffs. I was very proud of my husband, the ref. This account is up close and personal, fun game to watch as the “ref’s wife.”
The American University of Central Asia (AUCA) in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Strategic Planning have the only American football teams in this part of the world. KIMEP won, 40-30, in a hard clashing game that left lots of bloody tape on the green turf. The game was called when a Bishkek player broke his ankle. The regulation European soccer field at the Central Stadium of the Army in Almaty is both longer and wider than an American football field. Red cones on the far side mark of ten yard lines, and cardboard triangles mark them off on the spectator side. There were no lines, but the fabric strips of the artificial strip run across the width and provide a basis for moving and spotting the ball.
Refereeing was “colorful” – a political science prof named Dr. Steven Green, and an economics prof named Dr. Gray, who stopped to take a picture of scrimmage one night, and was not let out his office by five players who wouldn’t leave until I’d said that I’d find a ref for them, or do it myself. The person I found couldn’t come when the game time was advanced. Green knew what he was doing, and I must have some genetic American football encoding, because football facts kept coming to my head: “forward progress stopped,” “didn’t touch base while rounding second,” and “traveling with the ball,” for instance. None of my calls were challenged. It is great to be over here where an American is qualified to do any thing he is called to do.
The Bishkek team was outfitted in uniforms donated by Evangel College in Springfield, Missouri. Evangel will send a team to an even larger event to be held in Bishkek in May, with additional teams from Russia, Uzbekistan, and Turkey. KIMEP players are short of equipment and had to share shoulder pads and jerseys as they sent replacements into the game. Crowd cheers included: “Heez OUR Man!” “Touchdown!” and “Kazakhstan!” Team chatter included: “FACEMASK” “norMALna” and “Tovarishchi!” God provided a sunny day. A good time was had by all.