Feb 22, 2009

10 Questions with Neil Dymock - "BakuorBust"

Neil Dymock in one of the cars along with Wales players Lewin Nyatanga and Gareth Baleby Ceri Shaw (Email)

On May 23rd 2009, over 30 Welsh Football Supporters will set off from Cardiff in old bangers to aim to reach Baku to watch Azerbaijan play Wales in a World Cup qualifier on 6th June. The cars will have a value of £400 maximum, some will make it, some probably won't. In this Interview Neil Dymock of GolCymru explains why.

Neil Dymock in one of the cars along with
Wales players Lewin Nyatanga & Gareth

1. What is "Baku or Bust?" and whose idea was this?

"Baku or Bust" is the name of a charity project. A number of Welsh Football Supporters are attempting in May to raise money for orphanages along the way. The idea is to drive from the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff through Europe to reach Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan in time to see Wales play the Azeris on 6th June 2009 in a Qualifier for the World Cup in South Africa. I initially had the idea from reading an article on two people who had driven from London to Mongolia in a charity rally and saw their route had taken them through A zerbaijan. Back in March last year, I drove to Luxembourg with a friend, Gareth Davis, to watch Wales play a friendly there and we talked about the possibility of driving to Azerbaijan. It started from here basically and has really taken off since then.

We started with one of two cars and around 4 or 5 people really interested, but after some advertising in the Wales fanzine I produce called 'The Dragon Has Landed', I started having one or two emails from curious Wales fans asking for more details. To be honest I was making up most of the answers to their questions at that stage as the idea was still on the drawing board, but since last Autumn it has really taken off and we now have over 30 Wales supporters taking part and over 10 vehicles.

2. You're raising funds for Gôl and you're a trustee for them - for people outside Wales, what is Gôl and what does it do?

Gôl came about on a bus ride back back from a place called Valkeakoski in Finland in September 2002, where I had just seen Wales Under 21's lose 2-1 to Finland. Myself and two other Welsh fans, Gary Pritchard and Dylan Llewellyn were talking about our upcoming trip to Azerbaijan in the November and we decided to see if we could locate some orphanages we could help to promote the kind nature of Welsh Football fans. We found three to visit, raised over $2300 to donate and the rest as they say is history.

On our return, we decided to carry on fundraising and came up with the name Gôl which means Goal in Welsh. We formed an informal charitable organisation and continued visiting orphanages, childrens homes and hospitals whenever Wales played abroad. We then decided to help underpriveledged children in Wales watch Wales play at the Millennium Stadium and terminally ill children, those suffering from Leukaemia and children who normally would not have the opportunity to see Craig Bellamy and co play, can now watch Wales. In October 2008, we applied for charitable status with the Inland Revenue and now have a charity number XT14176.

3. How did you get involved with this? Are you personally going on the drive?

I have been involved with Gôl since its infancy and have been to all of the 30+ places Gôl have visited in the last seven years, bar Moscow and Iasi, with Gôl raising around $60,000 in this time. It has been a labour of love during this time, but totally worthwhile, with so many Wales fans involved with Gôl, be it by coming along on an orphanage visit or simply buying a raffle ticket. I remember one guy won a tabl football game in a raffle at work and he brought it all the way to Azerbaijan to give it to an orphan. The Welsh Football team can be very proud of their fans, who aim to make a difference at every game. With the papers being sold containing stories of Craig Bellamy's spat with a fan in Portugal the other week, Gôl were busy visiting two orphanages in Albufeira, enabling children at the homes to have dental treatment in 2009. The Welsh players are a great help to Gôl though, from signing shirts we can use in raffles to having photos taken with children suffering from Leukaemia.

A lot of people ask me from time to time how and why we achieve what we do with Gôl. Watching Wales around the world is a priveledge, you make great friends for life from all over Wales, travel to places most people have never heard of and have stories to tell that people wouldn't even think of making up. However the answer is simple, we can ! One of the people inspirational in obtaining souvenirs and prizes to raffle which helped raise the money to donate to those first three causes in Azerbaijan is no longer with us. Maralyn Olsen was a retired school teacher and Welsh Football supporter who did so much for Gôl before she sadly lost her fight against cancer in January 2004. She has been a massive loss to Gôl and Welsh Football in general. Gôl continues with her spirit and those of other Wales fans no longer with us.

I am now one of four trustees the charity has and two of us, myself and Tim Hartley will be going on the drive. Duncan Jardine and Andy Hurst are the other two trustees. We have had so many people who have contributed to Gôl though since 2002. Dylan Llewellyn, Gary Pritchard, Rob Santwris, Mark Ainsbury, have been major influences, the list goes on, many fans have all put in a tireless amount of work for the good name of Welsh Football Supporters.

Going back to BakuorBust I don't think Tim really thought I was serious when I mentioned driving to Azerbaijan, but he has and is proving a tremendous help in assisting me with the preparations and has raised over $1500 already. Everyone taking part has been a great help though and given me great confidence that this project will be a resounding success, especially Dave and Jim who have driven to Mongolia before and have the experience of border crossings by car. We aim to visit over 20 orphanges en-route to Baku and raise over $15,000 to spend on these good causes.

4. Have you ever done anything like this before?

No I have never thought about driving a very old car, which drinks oil by the pint over 3700 mile !!! Seriously though I have been involved in a number of Gôl fundraising activities, including leading a team to run in the Iceland Marathon in 2005 and organising a charity walk in London from the Oval where Wales first played in London to Orient where Wales last played. I have always enjoyed fundraising and have run a few marathons for charity in the past, including Chigaco in 1999.

5. Where are you all getting your cars from? What might they be? Have you got them yet? Got yours?

The first few cars were supplied by Dainton Brothers Garage based in Hengoed, just outside Cardiff. Gareth, Huw and Winstone Dainton have been a tremendous help in sourcing cars for us, refurbishing them and getting them through an MOT. Dial-a-Weld, Part Mart and King David Tyres have also supported Dainto Bros in helping get the cars in a driveable condition with half a chance of making it to Baku. While a special mention to Smart Graphics for designing the advertising that will be going on all the cars. I am driving a very old Peugeot 106, which has done 140,000 mile, while Tim will be driving a Toyota Rav4, which has over 120,000 mile on the clock. We have a red taxi in the shape of a 'London Black Cab', two people carriers and rumours are rife that one of the fund raisers is in negoatiations to obtain an Ambulance. We did have an offer of a Fire Engine as well but turned this down as there were more logistical negatives than positives to driving a Fireman Sam Fire Engine to Azerbaijan.

6. How will you do it, in teams? How will they be selected?

Most of the 'teams' have been 'self selected' as a group of friends taking part. A few individuals are taking part so I have matched them up with other team's. The biggest team is from Cardiff, with five driving in an old people carrier nicknamed Val. One team, Marc and Richard from North Wales have yet to find a car and the weekend visits to dodgy second hand car lots go on and you can read about on Marc's blog. www.conwytobaku.co.uk

7. How are you going to choose your routes? Will they all be the same or every car for itself?

The general route will be through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. We are planning to leave Cardiff on Friday 22nd May, but some of the cars may not leave until Monday 25th as Cardiff City or Swansea City may be playing in the Championship Play-Off Final at Wembley. If this happens and some of the other teams leave late, the plan is to meet up in Istanbul on the Friday evening before traveling together from here. In Georgia we are spending two days in Kutaisi, which is twinned with a city in Wales ( Newport ) and they will be holding a civic reception for us when we arrive.

8. Will you all meet and celebrate when you arrive? What plans do you have for that?

I am traveling to Azerbaijan for a week at the start of May, by plane not by car ! I will be meeting the President of the Azerbaijan Volunteers Union, Sebuhi Rzayev to discuss our plans to visit seven oprhanages in Qazax, Tovuz, Shamkir, Ganja, Goychay, Kurdamir, and Baku. While I will also be meeting Jon Patterson, an Ex-Pat who I met when Wales played there in 2002 and 2004. Between discussions with these two people I hope to organise a celebration party for Friday 5th June in Baku. During my week in Baku I will also be working as a volunteer in two or the orphanages we are helping to get a better understanding of how we can help these places and the children there. All the money raised by April the 30th for BakuorBust will be spent on items that the orphanages we visit, need. I will be ordering a lot of the supplies for orphanges in Azerbaijan during my week in Baku and we will then distribute ihem when we arrive in the country. For example there are 160 children suffering from mental disabilities at the Saray Orphanage just outside Baku and many have towels as diapers as the home can't afford new supplies. Gôl will be donating fresh suppliers so the children can have some dignity.

An orphan at Saray Orphanage, Azerbaijan

An orphan at Saray Orphanage, Azerbaijan

9. What other fundraising activities does Gôl conduct or contribute to?

Gôl is always looking for funraising opportunities. I have already mentioned running in Iceland and walking in London as previous events. We have also had people running marathons in London, New York, Dublin and Cardiff. One Wales fan cycled from Cardiff to Dublin, while another took part in the world famous Wicklow Bike Race. On April 12th Owen Williams will be swimming Llyn Tegid in Bala, while next year Andy Hurst hopes to run a marathon on every continent in the World. We have also set up online fundraising on a site known as Just Giving. We are hoping people with a Welsh background around the world will contribute $3 per person to our project. For example if just half the members of Americymru donate $3 each, this would raise over $1500. This can be done online at

10. How many cars do you think will make it?

I'd like to think they will all make it, but the law of averages tells me its unlikely. The combined mileage of these cars is well in the excess of one million and although they all have MOT's even new cars can break down at any time. We have various back up plans already in place and the basic idea is if a car breaks down and is not fixable within a timely and financial limit, we will arrange to have the car disposed off and the people driving those cars will jump in a fellow fundraisers car. However we have several difficulties to overcome for any of the cars to reach Baku. Right Hand Drive cars are not allowed in Azerbaijan, but we are hoping to obtain dispensation to take the cars in off the Azeri President, Ilham Aliyev. Plan B, is to leave the cars in Georgia and have a bus waiting at the Georgian / Azerbaijan border to take us to Baku. It is hoped whoever and wherever we leave the cars they will be used for good causes, even if it's for a technical college for budding Azeri or Georgian mechanics to practise on !

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