News / Europe

Football Game Symbolizes Chechnya’s Renaissance

Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov (r) fights for the ball with Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning side player Dunga (c) during an exhibition match between Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning side and 'team Kadyrov' in Grozny on March 8, 2011
Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov (r) fights for the ball with Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning side player Dunga (c) during an exhibition match between Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning side and 'team Kadyrov' in Grozny on March 8, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +

Four years ago, the carpet bombed ruins of Grozny, capital of Chechnya, reminded visitors of Stalingrad after World War II.

But last Tuesday night, the explosions here were fireworks, celebrating a morale-boosting exhibition game between Grozny’s football team and members of Brazil’s 2002 World Cup winning team at Grozny’s refurbished football stadium.

As the Brazilians in their green and gold jerseys stepped out in the chill mountain air, a crowd of about 10,000 Chechen men, and a handful of women, jumped to their feet for the national anthems of Brazil, Russia and Chechnya.

After years of war, Chechens were bursting with pride that these Brazilian football heroes had flown to a city whose name often evokes fear elsewhere in Russia and the world. For Chechnya, the football game culminates three years of intense rebuilding.

Moscow has invested billions of dollars in rebuilding the capital and the republic. From the capital to the countryside, it is now hard to find physical evidence of two wars that ravaged Chechnya since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Ali, a government advisor, says the exhibition game marks Chechnya’s renaissance from ruin. It also put on display the political formula of his boss, Chechnya's leader, 34-year-old Ramzan Kadyrov.

Chechnya’s young leader rules with a mix of Islamic fervor, energetic populism, and concrete results on the ground, and total loyalty to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

It is no accident that Grozny’s main avenue, Prospect Putin, culminates at the doorstep of a glistening new mosque, reputed to be the largest in Europe. In a city that three years ago had no electricity after dark, the mosque is bathed in soft exterior lights through the night.

At the stadium, a government supplied sign read: "Ramzan, thanks for everything." Tuesday night, a visiting reporter asked Kadyrov if there was more to the exhibition game than football. Without responding directly, he shouted over the reporter’s head, leading fans in chants of "Praise Allah."

In May, Kadyrov is to inaugurate a new city stadium with triple the seating capacity of the current one. Now he wants Grozny to join the list of 13 Russian cities that will host the 2018 World Cup. While no decision has been made, it is clear that the Kremlin likes Kadyrov’s style as Chechnya's leader. Last week, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reappointed Kadyrov for a second term as President of Chechnya.

On Friday, Prime Minister Putin announced that Moscow will funnel $12 billion into development projects designed to pacify the Caucasus. With oil prices up, Moscow has the money.

Critics charge that Chechnya’s leader siphons off a fair amount of Moscow’s billions to live a young man’s fantasy life. If an internet surfer googles "Kadyrov cars," photos will pop up of European high performance sports cars allegedly owned by Chechnya’s president. A Google search for "Kadyrov palace" will yield photos of an Arab style palace, complete with gold plated bathroom fixtures, that he has built in his home village.

Last month, Grozny’s football club, Terek, hired as coach the retired Dutch soccer star, Ruud Gullit. According to Moscow media reports, Grozny will pay Gullit $8 million a year to coach a team that represents a city of only 350,000 residents.

On Tuesday night, Kadyrov fulfilled another fantasy - leading a team of friends against the legendary stars of Brazilian football. To prepare for the match, the Chechen leader told reporters he had lost weight.

During the game, the Brazilians obligingly pulled their punches, setting up two foul shots on their goal by the opponents’ center forward: Ramzan Kadyrov.

On the second one, Zetti, the Brazilian goalie helpfully ducked right, as President Kadyrov shot left.

Chechnya’s unhappy history was not far from the game. Seven years ago, at the same stadium, a massive bomb blew up beneath the VIP seats. Among the notables killed was Akhmat Kadyrov, president of Chechnya and father of Ramzan.

Tuesday night at half time, Makka Mejhidova, a singer resplendent in Chechen national dress, walked onto the field in front of the VIP seats and sang national hits. Suddenly, a group of bodyguards charged out of the locker room. And then, there on the field, was Ramzan Kadyrov, in his red and white football jersey, dancing Chechnya’s national dance, the legzinka. The crowd cheered wildly.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid