The dramatic landscape of Mongolia surrounds the city of Ulaanbaatar. Snow clouds loom over the children playing football on a miniature artificial pitch as the extreme cold temperatures of winter in Mongolia have finally subsided, football season is ready to begin. April, 2014.
The Mongolian Football Federation stadium, Ulaanbaatar, April 2014. Mongolia’s equivalent of Wembley Stadium was built in 2001 using a 10 million pound grant from FIFA. Although the facilities should of only cost 3 million, the full 10 million was absorbed into the construction. With only 2 regulation size pitches in the country, the MFF stadium sees 80% of all Mongolian football, however without a roof the season is forced to shut down for more than half the year because of the freezing conditions.
A Bayangol FC Player rests during a training session. Ulaanbaatar, April 2014.
Bayangol FC is the newest club in the Mongolian Premier League. They are determined to make a positive change in Mongolian football by developing young, homegrown talent within a professionally run club structure. By developing young talent the final goal is to make the Bayangol Players idols for a new generation.
Bayangol F.C in training, in the halls of the English School of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar. April 2014.
The English School of Mongolia, a privatised school, gives up it’s halls for Bayangol FC to train in twice a week. Nearly all clubs in Mongolia use school gyms to train for a small fee. Most of these deals are illegal however as state run schools cannot take money for use of their facilities. The development of facilities is one of the biggest issues with the progression of football in Mongolia.
The Manchester United Supporters Club of Mongolia auction off framed pictures from the walls of the Manchester Pub, Ulaanbaatar, April 2014.
Many Mongolians are looking to take influence from the West and especially Europe’s top leagues. By bringing the Western-model to the game they hope to improve the standard of football in Mongolia.
FC Mr Noyun Pizza change in the stands before their match in the ETV tournament,Ulaanbaatar, April 2014.
After winning the rights to screen the 2014 World Cup, The MFF and E.TV quickly organised a tournament of 32 teams as an advertising concept. Instead of using preregistered teams to help with the development of players, the teams were thrown together using a mixture of players from the different leagues, using sponsors or invented names for the various teams.
Players run out from the tunnel of the MFF national stadium, Ulaanbaatar, April 2014.
The pre-match preparations are taken very seriously before every football match in Mongolia. Unlike in England, where you find Sunday league players taking the field and kicking off, all Mongolian matches begin with the formal process of leaving the tunnel, lining up for the spectators and the team handshakes, mimicking the process you see in the English Premier League.
A player takes a corner during a match during the E.TV tournament at the MFF stadium, Ulaanbaatar, April 2014.
Despite costing 3million pounds to build, the national football stadium only has two stands for supporters. The government do not supply any money to the MFF aid with the development of Football in Mongolia.
The pitch of FC Erchim Thermal Power Plant 04, Ulaanabaatar, April 2014.
Mongolia’s richest and most successful team at club level. Using the money from Ulaanbaatar’s largest power plant, which burns coal to produce the heat and electricity for the city, Erchim are the only team with their own regulation pitch. They dominate the league because of their facilities and wealth to bring over overseas players to improve their squad.
FC Deren and FC Ulaanbaatar University compete in the under-17 national championships in the snow at the MFF Stadium, Ulaanbaatar, April 2014.
FC Deren, named after the Dutch construction company that built the stadium, are the only academy in the country that train children and develop them together from the ages of 10 – 17. Many of the Deren players go on to play for teams in the Official league of Mongolia, the MFF’s Niislel League.
At the end of training for Bayangol FC. Ariunbold contemplates life away from football, Ulaanbaatar, April 2014.
With no job, and little education, living in the Ger District, Ulaanbaatar’s poorest area, Ariunbold lives for football. Bayangol FC was set up to change Mongolian football. To create a team that runs professionally and aims to develop young talent to produce idols for a new generation.
The Red Devils of Mongolia, Manchester United Supporters Group, the Manchester Pub, Ulaanbaatar, April 2014.
For years football in Mongolia was seen as a foreign game, still popular to watch however supporters entwined their lives with the rich histories of Europe’s biggest clubs..
Ochiroo and Buyna, two of the youngest members of Bayangol FC relax by playing FIFA 14 at a gaming cafe, Ulaanbaatar, April 2014.
Mongolia does not feature on any football based game. Despite FIFA 14 containing over 16,000 players, not one is Mongolian.
Supporters watch Manchester United Vs Bayern Munich at an illegal broadcast of the match at the Manchester Pub, Ulaanbaatar. April 2014.
Due to the high levels of Alcoholism in the adult population in Mongolia, all bars are ordered to close at midnight. Because of the 7 hour time difference, many matches begin as late as 3am in Mongolia. This does not deter the fans in the slightest, such is the support the bars experience their heaviest trade after hours, with packed venues showing the game.
Players perform a Mongolian tradition after enjoying cup success at the MFF Stadium, April 2014, Ulaanbaatar.
A Deren Under 13’s Academy player, sits on the bleachers before training at the Deren training pitch, Ulaanbaatar. April 2014.
FC Deren are allowed to use the miniature pitch that joins the MFF stadium to train their children as they are named after the construction company that built the stadium. There is a huge shortage of facilities for the development and training of football in Mongolia.
Baganuur FC train after working for 12 hours in Baganuur coal mine. Baganuur, April 2014.
The team who are located in Baganuur, a coal mining town 3 hours to the south west of Ulaanbaatar, compete Mongolian Premier League.
With the team receiving life changing jobs at the coal mine to keep them at the football team, they mine the coal for 12 hours before training, or travelling to Ulaanbaatar for matches. The coal is taken by train to Thermal Power Plant 04 in order to power the city.
A goalkeeper warms up against the outer wall of the MFF Stadium before his match, Ulaanbaatar, April 2014.
With the MFF Stadium running fixtures back to back, there is nowhere for the teams to warm up before their game. Many players have to resort to warming up in the dirt in front of the stadium.
Surrounded by the apartment blocks left behind from the Soviet-era, School children play football in a central park, Ulaanbaatar, April 2014.
Although many have a fierce passion to play football at a young age, the lack of facilities and coaches mean that the children’s talent can not be developed. Many choose instead to play basketball as they grow older as it is far more accessible to play.
FC Ulaanbaataar University Under 17’s warm up before their match, Ulaanbaatar, April 2014.
With the MFF Stadium running fixtures back to back, there is nowhere for the teams to warm up before their game. FC UBU resort to warming up in the dirt in front of the stadium.
The Under 15 and Under 17 National Champions lift their trophies during the championship ceremony at the MFF Stadium, Ulaanbaatar, April 2014. These players are the first generation that will experience the changing philosophy of Mongolian football, with more belief than ever in the dream of professional football that will change their lives.