Expatica news

Football: Dutch legend takes ‘sexy football’ to Chechnya

The provincial team from the war-ravaged Russian region said the surprising swoop for its new manager came entirely thanks to Chechnya’s ruler Ramzan Kadyrov — a man the West accuses of abductions and other violations.

Few would argue that the former Dutch superstar and the former Chechen warlord make for an odd couple.

The one-time Dutch skipper once bragged trademark dreadlocks that attracted almost as much attention as his sublime touch passes on the pitch.

Kadyrov meanwhile has made his reputation by being a ruthless warrior who fought Russian troops as a teenager before cleverly switching sides when the timing was right.

Yet Kadyrov said he was convinced that this was a match made in heaven that would make people notice Grozny for all the right reasons again.

“Our team will now battle for the right to play in the Euroleague,” Kadyrov was quoted as saying by Interfax from the Chechen capital.

“We hope that Terek will be able to establish itself as one of the top five teams.”

Terek has competed admirably in the Russian Premier League since finally being allowed to play in its original home town of Grozny in 2008.

The club was formed in 1958 and won the Soviet Cup in 1974. But it simply vanished when war came to Chechnya in the 1990s and did not play again until 2001.

Kadyrov has prided himself on using Moscow’s money and trust to rebuild the predominantly Muslim republic — a campaign that has seen sport and theatre return to Grozny.

Terek now bears the name of the republic’s former leader and Kadyrov’s father Akhmad. Its financial health meanwhile relies on local businessmen and the vast Chechen diaspora living across Russia.

The club’s vice president said that getting the two-time world football player of the year and former Dutch captain to sign was really not that difficult.

“There is really nothing surprising about us signing a contract with Ruud Gullit,” Terek Vice President Haidar Alkhanov told the Sport Express daily.
“We selected from a wide group of specialists that included Gullit.”

The club said that Gullit would be offered his predecessor’s salary and have the option of renewing his contract when this one expires in 18 months.

Gullit has had an up and down career since being a part of the scintillating Dutch side that won the 1988 European championship as well as the dominant AC Milan sides of the late 1980s.

He later became a colour analyst for the BBC and famously coined the phrase “sexy football” during the Euro 96 campaign.

But the 48-year-old’s spell at coaching has seen him steadily climb his way down from English Premiership sides Chelsea and Newcastle United to the Dutch and US MLS divisions.

Sports commentators suggested that Gullit may have simply run out of football options and decided to make a dramatic career move that also benefits a little-known club.

“This will certainly raise people’s interest in Terek and Russian football as a whole,” said Moscow Echo football commentator Anton Orekh.

“The Europeans associate Grozny with completely different things. But it is another matter entirely of whether he can help them in football terms.”

Gullit is expected to formally assume his duties on Sunday and appear on the touch line for the first time when his team faces 2010 champions Zenit Saint Petersburg, who finished 35 points and 12 places above Grozny last season.

Observers said that Gullit may come away slightly shell-shocked by the cultural difference between places like London and Hollywood and the slowly-rebuilding Grozny.

“But in reality, this team spends very little time in Grozny itself,” Orekh said. “They like to travel.”

AFP/ Dmitry Zaks