Matchworn by Gurbangeldy Batyrov 14.11.2017 TKM 🇹🇲 : TWN 🇹🇼 2-1
„Let the life of every Turkmen be as beautiful as our melons.”
(Saparmurat “Türkmenbaşy“ Niyazov)
All hail the great Türkmenbaşy! A humble ruler that renamed the months and days of the week after himself and rather than living in his preferred “wooden cabin”, he was apparently forced by his folk to live in a marble palace. Poor guy!
Within his rather short rule (at least for an autocrat), Saparmurat Niyazov has achieved many great things for his people:
banning all recorded music and lip-synching.
banning video games
prohibiting make-up for Turkmen news reporters
banning beards and long hair for men
Closing all hospitals in the country, except the ones in Turkmenistan’s capital Ashgabat (what a genius move!)
shutting down all internet cafes
prohibiting smoking in all public places (Hey! That’s a good one for once!)
building a giant skating ring (because all Turkmen should learn how to skate, obviously)
While this is certainly a spectacular feat even for a power-crazed dictator, the crowning achievement of his successor Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow seems even more impressive:
Leading his country to a dead last place in the 2019 Press Freedom Index – even behind North Korea and Eritrea.
Since you won’t find the truth in any of the three national (owned) newspapers, Niyazov has created his own truth in the form of the Ruhnama.
Basically a bible with even more outrageous stories, the Ruhnama offers the "spiritual guidance of the nation" and serves as the basis of the nation's arts and literature. It is (of course) mandatory for all people to learn Niyazov’s teachings by heart, so it’s not that surprising, that the knowledge of the Ruhnama is element of the driving test – but not for women, as they aren’t allowed to drive a car anymore…
I could go on and on about the ridiculously bizarre things going on in Turkmenistan, like the fact that only white cars are allowed in the capital Ashgabat and that there is a motorized statues of Niyazov and his Ruhnama (yeah, that book has its own statue…), but this would break the mold of this article. Do yourself a favor and watch some documentaries on YouTube, like the formidable piece, John Oliver did on current president Berdimuhamedow.
With those living conditions, it is debatable, if Turkmenistan’s “Door to Hell” is really a burning gas crater, or just a synonym for the Turkmen border crossing.
Being a relatively young state, Turkmenistan played their first international game against rival Kazakhstan in 1992.
While the list of the countries human rights violations is long, that of its footballing achievements is considerably shorter:
Well, they did manage to advance to the final of the 2010 and 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, where they lost to North Korea, in what can only be dubbed the “Human (Un)rights Derby” or the “Our-president-is-a-murdering-megalomanica-and-we-are-not-allowed-to-use-the-internet-clash”, on both occasions.
As you can imagine, football shirts from such a secretive and (politically) isolated place aren’t exactly available at your local sports shop. There are also no replicas made, so the only option is to get a shirt via a player. Luckily, I was able to get this matchworn shirt from a friendly collector.
Turkmen shirts were never particularly flashy, but rather based on boring templates, therefore I’m happy to have this fairly nice model from Spanish manufacturer Joma. It was worn by midfielder Gurbangeldy Batyrov in an Asian Cup qualifier against Taiwan (resp. Chinese Taipeh) in 2017, when the team managed to win 2-1.