To begin with, the article's title a bit misleading, due to the fact that the article primarily tells story of events happened during University of Pennsylvania (Upenn) Nayryz celebration and does not really cover the soccer cup that much. It is due to the fact that I was unable to attend the cup. The reason behind including the cup in the tittle deals with idea that one can consider those two events to be inseparable, as the first one organically morphs into second one.

    With that being stated, let me briefly describe the cup. On April 13th of 2014, fourth KazAlliance soccer cup has taken place on Upenn soccer field in Philadelphia, PA. Importantly, the particular event was the first serious endeavor by recently elected KazAlliance president Ruslan Zhexebaiuly. Ruslan pointed out that the main goal of yearly Nauryz and KazAlliance soccer cup is to consolidate Kazakh students living in USA, empower friendly relations in Kazakh community, and market Kazakh culture, here in United States. Same, as in the last time, the cup was joined to Nauryz celebration, and after the end of tough and tiring games, players and guests of the tournament gathered in Samarkand restaurant located in north-eastern Philadelphia.

    As far as participants of the cup go, there were teams from these cities: State College, PA; New York, NY; Boston, MA; Washington, DC; and Philadelphia, PA. Notably, that only two university based Kazakh associations brought in their individual teams – Penn State (State College, PA) (powerhouse – brought two teams !) and Upenn (Philadelphia, PA). Interestingly, only these two teams had fan groups with them as well. In other cases teams were assembled from various members of Kazakh communities of their respective cities. Importantly, universities based teams did not completely dominated the tournament. To illustrate, Boston city based team made it to semi-finals, and that was their first KazAlliance tournament to the date. Next, a team from New York got second place in the cup. Finally, Upenn team that won last year tournament did not make it even to semi-finals this year. Thus, it can be stated that there was some balance to the tournament flow.

   As far as the winning team goes, one of two teams from Penn State University has taken this role, namely Penn State – 1. Interesting fact here is that Olzhas Bayanov, whom was a captain of Penn State team this year, acted as a team captain for Upenn team during last year KazAlliance tournament – back then Upenn has won the cup. Thus, it could be so that leadership skills of the particular captain allowed Penn State -1 to win the cup.

  Well, now as I have done summarizing the cup, it is time to recount events at Nauryz celebration or Spring Feast, as it sometimes called in Kazakhstan. Restaurant celebration of Nauryz was organized by Kazakhstan Student Association of Upenn, with some assistance by KazAlliance. The selection of particular restaurant was not an accidental, as it appears to be one of a few restaurants in Philadelphia serving food similar to Kazakh ones. In this case, menu included pilaf, chebureki, samsa, manty, shashlik, and traditional salads.

On photos below one can see pilaf and shashlik respectively.

  Event promoters rented large, secluded room inside the restaurant that included a number of tables for guests at one side of the room and scene for performances on the other.

  Celebration program had an appointed host – Duman Zhekenov. Duman, who has a doctorate degree, does research at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University and currently studies English in language school at Upenn. Afterward, Duman plans to do a research practice in USA under “Bolashak” program. Notably, Duman has extensive experience in acting as host in a various events. For this particular event, he and his colleagues from Kazakh Upenn association prepared a detailed program. Duman starts the celebratory program with the speech about an importance of a celebration of Nauryz, and then adds a few points dealing with paying respect to the fact Kazakhstan government's “Bolashak” program that allows a number of Kazakhs to get a higher education abroad for free.

  Next, Dosan Kaumen appears on the stage. Dosan, historian by specialty, whom has an experience of working as senior scientist at Nazarbayev Center in Kazakhstan's capital, Astana. Same as Duman, Dosan is currently studies English in language school at Upenn and later plans to do a research practice in USA under “Bolashak” program. Once on stage, Dosan speaks a special ceremonial speech known as “Bata”, which is ought to compliment everyone with Spring Feast of Renewal (Nauryz) and wish to Kazakhstan country prosperity and happy existence. Later, I have asked Dosan about traditional roots of “Bata”, and it appears that at Nauryz, traditionally, festive meal known as “Dastarkhan” starts with “Bata” which acts a sort of manifesting a wish or an ask directed towards God. Generally, “Bata” is being spoken by elder known as “Aksakal”. Since there were no elders in organizers' group, they have discussed the matter and decided to nominate Dosan for this honorable mission.

  Afteward, Duman continued celebratory program by performing Kazakh song “Сарыарка” by N. Aituly (text) and A. Seidimbek (music). The subject of this song deals with one's feeling anguish because of inability to be at their home country at the moment. with the one's Importantly, during his performance Dosan utilized Kazakh national instrument - “Dombra”.

   Moments later, on stage appeared oldest Kazakh of Upenn community, historian by specialty as well – Gabit Zhumatay. Gabit gave another brief sentiment about importance of Nauryz.

   At that point, the team of Penn State -1 assembled on the stage, and their captain was a given an opportunity for a brief speech.

Meanwhile, the large trophy cup was awaiting its fate on the stage.

  Once Olzhas finished, Ruslan Zhexebaiuly congratulated the winning team in a brief statement.

  Once he was done, Sabit Karaev, secretary of KazAlliance, proceeded with presenting awards to members of the winning team.

  Once awards ceremony was done, Sabit performed song of Kadyr Myrzy Әли (unfortunately, I have no idea how translate the first letter of this word in English, so I had leave the whole word in Kazakh) titled as “"Қазақтарды шетелдік қонақтарға таныстыру әні"”. As Sabit pointed out later - “this song describes life, traditions, and culture of Kazakh nation”.

  Next, there was a special word game that tested contestants (men team vs women team) at their Kazakh language knowledge and ability to think fast. The loosing side was to be punished by whip in non-serious way...

No matter how hard men team tried, women team still came out victorious...

  Past the particular entertainment, the first president of KazAlliance, Abutalip Mutali, appeared on the stage and presented a brief speech dealing with a history of KazAlliance.

   Next, girl named Aidana came out to the stage and performed song of Abai titled as “ Желсіз түнде жарық ай”.

   As the final part of Nauryz celebration program, tug of war contest was introduced...

President of KazAlliance Ruslan Zhexebaiuly stated later that he is quite happy with the way the whole event went. Not only students were able to play soccer in a friendly way, but the event also allowed them to celebrate Nayryz in Kazakh traditions.

Artem Balashov,

May 30th, 2014

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