On August 29, FC Barcelona opened its first football academy in Central Asia in Kyrgyzstan’s Jalalabad, a city located in the country’s south. The opening ceremony was attended by Kyrgyzstan’s president Sadyr Japarov, who inaugurated the academy together with FC Barcelona’s president Joan Laporta and former legendary players Carles Puyol and Rivaldo. Speaking of the scale of this project, Japarov highlighted that “the construction of the academy was one of the largest football infrastructure projects not only in Kyrgyzstan, but also in Central Asia as a whole.” And this was not an exaggeration.
Here is an Instagram post with photos and videos from the opening ceremony.
The academy in Jalalabad was FC Barcelona's 29th in the world and first in Central Asia. The plan to build such a facility was announced in 2021, but nobody paid much attention to it, dismissing it as another false promise given by politicians before the elections.
Two years later it became a reality. It occupies an area of 4.5 hectares and can house up to 200 students, who can live, train, and study at the facility under the guidance of foreign specialists. In addition, it has the capacity to host 2,000–3,000 children for daily training sessions. Spain’s requirements for building and running a football academy were used as a benchmark for the FC Barcelona academy in Jalalabad.
This is not all, however. Kyrgyzstan plans to expand its cooperation with FC Barcelona. On August 30, the same group of people, consisting of FC Barcelona management and Kyrgyzstan’s political leadership, laid a capsule for the construction of another football academy in the capital Bishkek. Its completion is expected to take three years and cost around KGS 10 billion (approximately USD 113 million). Upon its completion, the complex will include several football fields and a stadium, a medical facility, a business center, a hotel, apartments, and a school among others.
The opening of the academy and laying the capsule for another were not the most exciting events Kyrgyzstan’s football fans anxiously waited for a month. On August 30, the central Dolon Omurzakov Stadium hosted the much-awaited football match between “Legends of Barcelona” and “Legends of Asia.”
Both teams fielded legendary retired players, such as Carles Puyol, Edgar Davids, and Rivaldo on the Barcelona side. The home team included players from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Iran, the UAE, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Japarov, who is known as an avid football fan and plays as a striker, also participated in the match and played for the home team. He was substituted in the first half of the game after appearing in the starting lineup and failing to score. The match ended with the victory of FC Barcelona Legends with the score of 3:0.
Here is a YouTube video with the highlights of the match.
The fanfare around these events was ruined by the news about the Bishkek City Prosecutor Office filing a complaint against an independent media outlet Kloop and demanding its closure possibly for its investigation of the ownership of the academy. The complaint mentioned that the results of an inspection by the State Committee for National Security (GKNB) revealed that Kloop's “published materials are aimed at sharply criticizing the current government’s policies” and “most of the publications are of a purely negative nature, aimed at discrediting representatives of state and municipal bodies.”
The timing of this complaint is telling. It was filed immediately after Kloop published its investigation about how the sons of the current head of GKNB, Kamchybek Tashiyev, and Japarov’s close circle are behind the opening of the FC Barcelona academy in Jalalabad. The hearing of the case is scheduled for September 26. The Kloop editor has admitted that she expects the court to side with the prosecutor and order the closure of Kloop and that the media outlet will continue its work regardless of the upcoming verdict.