Tajikistan is a mountainous, landlocked country in central Asia with a population of just over seven million and a GDP lower than almost every country in the Western Hemisphere.
Most of us have never been to Tajikistan. And many of us have likely never heard of Tajikistan.
Despite this, Qurghonteppa, Tajikistan, is where you might find central Asia’s most ardent Portland Timbers supporters.
Troy Ready (REE-dee) was selected in the first round of the 2003 USL First Division draft by the Seattle Sounders after leading the University of Washington to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Instead of signing with Seattle, though, the Spokane native attempted to play in Norway before a visa issue prevented him from doing so. So Ready returned home for an eighth season with the Spokane Shadow of the USL’s Premier Development League. After a season with the PDL’s Cascade Surge, Ready signed a contract with the Timbers before the 2006 season.
While Ready could not find the scoring touch with Portland that made him the Shadow’s all-time leading scorer, tallying just one goal in 20 games over the 2006-08 seasons, his heart of gold was on full display through active involvement in the Timbers’ community programs. During his time with the Timbers, Ready was continually praised for his willingness and determination to make a difference in the Portland community.
Three years later, Ready finds himself halfway around the world.
The 30-year-old recently relocated to Qurghonteppa, a city located 60 miles south of Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe. There he serves the Millennium Relief and Development Services non-profit organization while playing for Vakhsh FC and using that platform to provide coaching, equipment and opportunities to the region’s youth.
Gavin Wilkinson, the MLS Timbers technical director and Ready’s former head coach, saw that side of Ready during his days in Portland.
“Troy is a phenomenal person with a rare ability to always be positive. He is an absolute joy to be around and in everything I have seen him involved in he gives so much more than he gets back,” said Wilkinson. “For the Timbers, Troy was always willing to be the perfect ambassador and contributed tremendously in helping build the brand in the community. His willingness to do so many appearances was appreciated by players, coaches and fans.”
Earlier this fall, the Timbers donated all of the gear from their 2010 PDL Championship-winning U-23s team to Ready’s Tajikistan efforts, providing his youth teams with jerseys, shorts, shin guards, cleats and soccer balls for the upcoming season.
For the poorest of the former Soviet republics, the contribution is not only a huge boost materially but it also shows that the world has not forgotten about the small, rugged country tucked high away in the mountains of central Asia.
“The Portland Timbers are not only making a significant difference in Portland and surrounding areas, but also throughout the world,” Ready said. “Their gracious donation to the people of Tajikistan is literally a life-changing investment.”
For more information on Ready’s work and to find out how you can help, visit Millennium Relief and Development Services.