Linesman's family 'forced to hide in basement' during pogroms in Kyrgyzstan

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The Independent Online

One of the linesmen in tonight's game between England and Algeria will have more on his mind than judging tight offside calls and dealing with potential vitriolic tirades from Wayne Rooney.

Bakhadyr Kochkarov of Kyrgyzstan, who will be running the line for the second time this World Cup, is an ethnic Uzbek from the southern Kyrgyz town of Osh. For the past week, the city has been the epicentre of ruthless attacks on the local Uzbek population, which have killed hundreds and sent tens of thousands fleeing to neighbouring Uzbekistan.

The riots in Osh began the night before the World Cup started, but this did not prevent Kochkarov carrying out his linesman duties in the opening match, the 1-1 draw between South Africa and Mexico.

According to Komsomolskaya Pravda, while Kochkarov was running the line at the game, his family back in Osh were hiding in a basement from the ruthless pogroms that were underway, as Kyrgyz gangs unleashed an orgy of rape, murder and looting on ethnic Uzbeks in the city and region. His wife, elderly mother and eight-year-old son spent more than two days hiding in terror in the basement.

It seems, however, that Kochkarov's family were luckier than some. According to the newspaper, all his close relatives survived. The referee will be Ravshan Irmatov of Uzbekistan, who referees in the lowly Uzbek league but is widely regarded as one of the best referees in Asia, and the second linesman will also be from Uzbekistan.

Prior to his departure for South Africa, Kochkarov gave an interview to a local news website, where he said that he had also agreed to referee several games across the border in the Uzbek league next season. When asked if he might make the move permanently, he was adamant, however.

"I represent my country, and I will never change my city – Osh, and my country – Kyrgyzstan," said the linesman. "I'm going to work and live in the country where I was born and where I learned to referee. I have seen many countries, but believe me, nowhere is better than Kyrgyzstan." After the last week's events in Osh, he may be forced to reconsider.

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