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Football "Chechen style"

The trials and tribulations of Ruud Gullit, or
'The adventures of an ageing, off-the-shelf "former Netherlands football star" in Ramzan Kadyrov's Chechnya'

In chronological order, as followed by the BBC:

19 January 2011

Ruud Gullit appointed coach of Terek Grozny in Russia

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Ruud Gullit has been appointed head coach of Russian Premier League club Terek Grozny on an 18-month contract.

The 48-year-old former Chelsea, Newcastle and Feyenoord boss has been out of management since leaving Los Angeles Galaxy in August 2008.

Gullit said: "I'm very happy with my contract. I look forward to getting back into it and this is a beautiful, great opportunity for me."

The Chechen Republic outfit finished 12th in the 16-team League last year.

Gullit will join the team at their winter training camp in Anatolia in Turkey on Sunday.

The Dutchman added: "Next weekend I will join up with the team and we will begin preparing for the season."

Terek Grozny are based in the capital of Chechnya, which has been through two major wars in twenty years.

Club president Ramzan Kadyrov, who is also the President of the Chechen Republic, has set Gullit the target of a top-eight position in the league by mid-season.

Terek open their league campaign against champions Zenit St Petersburg on 10 March.

The Russian Premier League season is in the process of transferring from a summer to a winter season to align the national league with the European season.

The 2011-12 campaign will feature an inaugural play-off system where, after the initial 30 league games, the top eight teams will splinter off to compete for the top spots and European places.

Gullit left LA Galaxy in August 2008, citing personal reasons after his family had struggled to settle in California.

Since leaving the Major League Soccer outfit, Gullit has worked as a television pundit and was also an ambassador for the unsuccessful Dutch-Belgian 2018 World Cup bid.

Gullit, the 1987 European player of the year, is the third high-profile Dutch coach to manage in Russia in recent years.

The Russian national team boss is former Glasgow Rangers boss Dick Advocaat, who also coached Zenit St Petersburg from 2006 to 2009, winning a league title and UEFA Cup.

Former Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink was in charge of the Russian national team before Advocaat from 2006 to 2010.

10 February 2011

Ruud Gullit arrives in Chechnya for Terek Grozny job

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Former Netherlands football star Ruud Gullit has arrived in Chechnya to an enthusiastic welcome as he takes up his new job as coach of Terek Grozny.

The 48-year-old former Chelsea, Newcastle and Feyenoord boss accepted an 18-month contract to coach the Russian Premier League club last month.

He and the team will be based not in Chechnya itself, but a Russian resort.

Asked what he thought of the Chechen capital Grozny, still marked by recent wars, he said he had seen worse places.

"Does it seem awful to me? No," Mr Gullit told reporters.

"I've been in more awful, dangerous and impoverished regions. I've been to Darfur and saw how people live there."

Terek Grozny finished 12th in the 16-team League last year and will open their league campaign against champions Zenit St Petersburg on 10 March.

Their progress through the League has been hailed as a success story by the Russian authorities, anxious to re-integrate Chechnya after two hugely destructive separatist wars with Moscow in the past two decades.

'A little pleasure again'

Hundreds of Terek Grozny fans greeted the Dutch star at Grozny airport before he was driven to a meeting with Chechnya's strong-arm Kremlin-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov.

Mr Gullit confirmed that he and the team would live and train in the Russian spa resort of Kislovodsk, about 250km (150 miles) west of Grozny.

He toured a football stadium under construction in Grozny with Mr Kadyrov, who said the team would eventually move to Grozny.

Chechnya was "the safest place" on Earth, the Chechen leader said. However, three explosions were reported in Grozny late the previous evening, with five people injured.

Mr Gullit has brushed off criticism at home that he is consorting with Mr Kadyrov, who is accused of presiding over widespread human rights abuses in his determination to root out any remaining separatist militants.

"You will always have people for and against but I don't want to be involved in politics," the Dutchman said in an interview published last month in Dutch daily De Volkskrant.

"I want to concentrate on the sport and give the people there a little pleasure in their lives again."

Mr Gullit declined to say on Wednesday how much he would be paid, adding that he did not care about money and wanted to help Terek Grozny succeed.

8 March 2011

Former Brazil stars in Chechnya for controversial game

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Former Brazilian football stars have played a celebrity match in Chechnya against a team led by controversial Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

Mr Kadyrov scored twice in the match in Grozny, but his team lost 6-4 to the Brazilian all-stars who included Romario, Dunga, Bebeto and Cafu.

Mr Kadyrov said he organised the game to show Chechnya had recovered from years of separatist conflict.

The Kremlin-backed leader has been widely accused of human rights abuses.

He said the Brazilians were not paid to appear but came out of goodwill and in return for a donation to flood victims in Brazil.

Before the game, the 34-year-old Chechen leader fired up the packed stadium with cries of "God is great" and also performed a traditional Chechen dance at half-time.

Dunga, who coached the all-stars team, would not be drawn on whether the Brazilians went easy on the host team.

"For us it was a great joy to get together and also give joy to the public," he said.

The Chechen squad included current players from local team Terek Grozny, former players from the national teams of the Soviet Union and Russia, and former German midfielder Lothar Matthaeus, who now coaches Bulgaria.

After the game, Mr Kadyrov said it had shown that Chechnya was recovering from war.

"They write everywhere about the killings and explosions in the Chechen republic," he said.

"Particularly in Europe they write that Kadyrov is bad and Russia is bad, there is no normal life for the people, and we are showing today that the population of one million on the territory of the Chechen republic is developing sports, education and culture, and that we are building an honourable future."

Islamic rules

On Monday night, Mr Kadyrov shrugged off accusations that he was imposing strict Islamic rules such as the wearing of headscarves on women in Chechnya.

He has openly defied Russian law by encouraging Chechen men to have more than one wife.

Saying he had just one wife and loved her but might take another one some day, he added: "If I see another woman prettier than her, why would I go somewhere and sin if Islam allows me to marry her?"

On the subject of payment for his footballer guests, Mr Kadyrov said they had come to Chechnya because "some of his friends" had helped Brazil recover from flooding. He gave no specifics.

The stadium in Grozny was where Mr Kadyrov's father, Akhmad, was blown up by militants in 2004.

Mr Kadyrov denied his visitors faced any security threat in Chechnya, which fought two bloody separatist wars with Moscow after the fall of the USSR.

"If some people think that terrorism is not dying here, they are deeply wrong," he said.

The Brazil players arriving at Grozny's airport were decked out in the green and red of Terek Grozny and waved to hundreds of fans waiting for them.

Terek Grozny is currently coached by former Netherlands football star Ruud Gullit.

14 June 2011

Chechnya: Ruud Gullit given Terek Grozny ultimatum

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Football coach and former star player Ruud Gullit has been hit with an angry ultimatum by the team he coaches: Win on Tuesday or you lose your job.

The Dutchman had an enthusiastic welcome when he arrived to coach Chechen team Terek Grozny in February.

But the club now says Gullit is distracted by "bars and discos" and has not justified its hopes.

It says he must "bring back three points" from Tuesday's game against Ankar Perm or face dismissal.

Terek Grozny finished 12th in the 16-team Russian Premier League in 2010.

Gullit was signed with the target of qualifying for European competition by 2012.

But after Gullit's 12-match tenure the team is now languishing in 14th place.


The club's president is the Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who even played for the team during a celebrity match in March.

He has a fearsome reputation, as Ruud Gullit has been finding out, says the BBC's sports news reporter Alex Capstick:

"Terek Grozny were formed in 1958 but vanished in the 1990s when Chechnya became a war zone. They did not play again until 2001.

"Ruud Gullit was a surprise choice when he was hired to manage the club. The president has high expectations for his club, and last month hosted an exhibition match which featured, among others, Diego Maradona and Luis Figo.

"But he is clearly not afraid to criticise his employees in public, no matter how high their profile."

Mr Kadyrov is "extremely dissatisfied" with Gullit's performance, the club said in the harshly worded statement in Russian on its website.

Terek is a team that "has never looked so hopeless" and Gullit refuses to accept any of the blame, it says.

"Considering all this, Ramzan Kadyrov is presenting Ruud Gullit with the task of bringing back three points from Perm.

"In the event of the opposite outcome, Gullit will be dismissed from the position of head coach."

Gullit, a former World Player of the Year and one of the most successful players in the history of Dutch football, was signed to an 18-month contract when he joined Terek.

Moscow had invested significant political hopes in the Chechen team's sporting success, in an attempt to move forward after two decades of ruinous conflict with the breakaway region.

Analysis (by Raf Saakov, BBC Russian Service sports correspondent)

In Chechnya, football is more than just a sport.

It's a matter of national pride, and of enormous political importance. The Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is not only head of the restive republic - he is also president of Terek Grozny FC.

And he doesn't shun using football to promote himself - and his vision of a post-war Chechnya.

Ruud Gullit is just one of the many international football stars to have appeared in the Chechen capital, Grozny, over the last four months.

In the spring, Diego Maradona, Romario and Luis Figo all played in a number of friendly matches, held in the grounds of the city's new 30,000-seater stadium.

According to Mr Kadyrov, games like these prove that Chechnya is recovering from the war, and that it's "building an honourable future for itself".

But Mr Kadyrov's critics say the resurgence of the Chechen football is little more than a propaganda stunt.

And questions are being asked about how much people like Ruud Gullit are being paid - and how one of Russia's poorest republics can afford stars of his calibre.

The next day (June 15), the BBC changed the previous article's title to Chechnya: Ruud Gullit fails on Terek Grozny ultimatum and added that 'the Dutch manager, Ruud Gullit, has lost a game which his boss said he either had to win or be sacked. Terek Grozny lost the Russian Premier League match to Amkar Perm by a last-minute own goal. [...] Terek is languishing near the bottom of the sixteen team league.'

What has Mr. Gullit let himself in for? Whatever happens (to him), it is a sad fact that one of the only reasons for which Chechnya pops up in mainsteam media (such as the BBC) nowadays is football...