Chechen strongman takes on Brazilian soccer greats

Here in the U.S., we often get to witness the spectacle of having past-their-prime soccer greats from overseas shipped in to take on our local talent.  There was a similar display in Chechnya yesterday, except that the local side bizarrely included warlord turned President Ramzan Kadyrov. FP contributor Tom Parfitt reports for the Guardian: Kadyrov’s ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images
DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images
DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images

Here in the U.S., we often get to witness the spectacle of having past-their-prime soccer greats from overseas shipped in to take on our local talent.  There was a similar display in Chechnya yesterday, except that the local side bizarrely included warlord turned President Ramzan Kadyrov. FP contributor Tom Parfitt reports for the Guardian:

Kadyrov's side, apparently a motley collection of overweight and greying Chechen bureaucrats spiced up by the presence of Terek Grozny's coach, Ruud Gullit, and a couple of Russian supersubs, took the field against altogether more formidable opponents: a collection of Brazilian World Cup winners from 1994 and 2002, including Romário, Bebeto, Cafu, Dunga and Denílson.

The match was a stunt organised by the attention-hungry Kadyrov, who enjoys a flourishing personality cult in this southern Russian republic, and an attempt to portray Chechnya as stable and safe from insurgent violence that plagues Russia's northern Caucasus region.

Here in the U.S., we often get to witness the spectacle of having past-their-prime soccer greats from overseas shipped in to take on our local talent.  There was a similar display in Chechnya yesterday, except that the local side bizarrely included warlord turned President Ramzan Kadyrov. FP contributor Tom Parfitt reports for the Guardian:

Kadyrov’s side, apparently a motley collection of overweight and greying Chechen bureaucrats spiced up by the presence of Terek Grozny’s coach, Ruud Gullit, and a couple of Russian supersubs, took the field against altogether more formidable opponents: a collection of Brazilian World Cup winners from 1994 and 2002, including Romário, Bebeto, Cafu, Dunga and Denílson.

The match was a stunt organised by the attention-hungry Kadyrov, who enjoys a flourishing personality cult in this southern Russian republic, and an attempt to portray Chechnya as stable and safe from insurgent violence that plagues Russia’s northern Caucasus region.

The game was surpisingly close with the Chehen side keeping the score tied 2-2 at the end of the first half, but eventually fell 6-4. Parfitt notes that, "both teammates and opponents seemed keen to give [Kadyrov] the ball" perhaps because they were afraid of what might happen of they didn’t. As one former boxing champion in the stands said, "The Brazilians are afraid to play strongly because Ramzan will break their necks if they win."

Say what you will about Bolivan President Evo Morales, he only kicks opponents in the groin during matches. Come to think of it, a match between those two might not be bad.

Be sure to check out Parfitt’s latest dispatches from the Caucasus.  

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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