Kazakhstan

Capital: Astana
Population: 16.9 million
Currency: Tenge
Official Language: Kazakh
Borders: Russia (North), China (East), Kyrgyzstan (South), Uzbekistan (South)
GNP per Capita: $1,350 (103rd in world)
Main Airport: Astana International – Astana

The second-largest of the former Soviet republics, Kazahstan extends for more than 2,000km from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Altai Mountains in the east.  Kazahkstan was the last Soviet republic to become independent and was the home to the Soviet Space programme.

ALMATY

The Ortalyk Tsentralnyi Stadion – 25,250 All Seater Capacity

For an aerial view of the stadium – click here

About the Ortalyk Tsentralnyi Stadion
The Almaty Central Stadium or the almost unpronounceable Ortalyk Tsentralnyi stadium to give it its local name has recently been completely redeveloped.  Whilst the multi-use stadium is smart to the eye with its blue, yellow and green seats, it does suffer from being very open to the elements, especially the rain that sweeps down from the mountains around the city.

Views are limited due to the presence of the athletics track as well as the low rake of the stands.  There is a roof that seems to float above the main stand offering some protection from the wind and rain.  The stadium was originally opened in 1957 as the national stadium when the capital was in Almaty with a capacity of over 40,000.

Since moving to the European federation (UEFA) the stadium has hosted a number of big games in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup as well as the Euro 2008 tournament, although the forthcoming match versus England will undoubtably be the biggest in the country’s history.

Who plays there?
The stadium is used on a regular basis by FC Almaty and FC Kairat Almaty – both of whom play in the Kazakhstan Super League.  FC Almaty are the newer of the two, having only been formed in 2000.  They won their first major honour in 2006 when the captured the Kazakhstan Cup, and thus qualified for the UEFA Cup in 2007.  Unfortunately their journey into Europe ended at the preliminary stage as they lost to Zlate Moravce of Slovakia.

FC Kairat Almaty used to be more commonly known as Dinamo Almaty.  They were the leading team from the Kazak republic in the Soviet Union and played in the top flight of Russian football for a number of seasons, finishing 7th in 1986 as their best ever finish.  Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the club have won two Kazakhstan Super League titles (in 1992 and 2004) as well as five cup finals.

The stadium is also home to the national team.  Whilst there are advanced plans to build a new national stadium in the capital Astana, it is not envisaged that this will be ready until 2009.  During the qualifying tournament for EURO2008 the stadium sold out for one of the only times for the game versus Portugal.

How to get there
The central stadium is located in the south of the city centre, close to the main east-west road – Abay Avenue.  It is walkable from the centre of the city – simply head Doystk Avenue from the Orthodox Cathedral, or walk 10 minutes west from Republic Square along Satpayer Str.

Getting a ticket
With domestic crowds rarely threatening to break the 5,000 mark, getting a ticket for matches on the day of the game is very easy.  Ticket prices are also very cheap – you will pay no more than 2,500 tenge for an uncovered seat behind the goal, double that for a seat in the covered stand.

National matches are sold in advance from the official FA website (when it is working athttp://www.fsz.kz), although with average attendances at the national games of less than 15,000 you will have no problems getting a ticket on the day of the game.

Getting around
Transportation in Almaty is sometimes a challenge even for Almaty dwellers. Public transport is no longer under state control and is being actively privatized. New bus routes appear every day and old ones are being cancelled. Anyway, it is not a problem to move around the city by bus, tram or trolleybus until 10 pm after which time only taxis are available. Taxis can be ordered at the telephones 058 or 007. Expatriates say it is OK to use private taxi drivers (car owners who earn their living by taxing without a license) as long as you take some precautions. Sit in cars with a driver and no passengers only. Agree on the fee in advance and preferrably in Russian and pay it in tenge. Speak as little English as possible. If you are with a local friend ask him or her to catch a taxi for you and agree on the fee. You can ask your friends putting you in a taxi to remember the number of the car. For trams, trolleybuses and state owned buses the fee is 25 tenge. There are plenty of private buses (their numbers have three digits and begin with 4 or 5), which charge 30-40 tenge.

Nearest Airport – Almaty International (ALA)
Telephone:              +7 727 270 3333
Website:                  http://www.alaport.com

Almaty is the largest airport in the country despite not actually being the capital city and has recently undergone a major redvelopment.  It is located 10 miles outside the city and handled over 2 million passengers last year.  It does have the same chaotic feel that all Soviet airports seem to have, and you will need to get a visa before you travel.  The airport has regular flights from the UK via BMI and national carrier Air Astana into London Heathrow.  To reach the city centre from the airport the best bet is a taxi.  Have a read of the health warning below taken from a well known ex-pat in the city.

“Exiting the airport is fun in itself. Exit the door on your left and run the gauntlet of taxi drivers. If you’re looking for entertainment at 3 am, you can say “yes” to each one of them when they ask if you need a driver. Just see how many of them trail you into the parking lot. Most of the guys will back off after you tell them “no” several times. They’re not being aggressive, they’re just trying to welcome you to Almaty. Before you arrive, you would be wise to arrange to have a driver from your hotel, office or tour agency pick you up. Also, please be aware of the AIRPORT SCAM. Recently, there have been several occasions where someone with a sign with your name on it will meet you somewhere before you exit (in baggage claim or Passport Control). This person has copied the sign of the legitimate driver who is waiting for you after Customs Control. This driver will then escort you to his car and drive you halfway into town and drop you off. He will not take you the rest of the way unless you pay him several hundred dollars. Therefore, make sure you have some way to identify your driver other than a handmade sign.

There will be numerous other people trying to help you at the airport. Some are legitimate and some are not. Just be careful and remember that nothing should cost you more than US$10. A taxi ride into the city should be no more than $20. You will need to bargain for a reasonable price. Good luck!”

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