Thursday, 20 January 2011

Gullit Moves to Chechnya – Does a Ruud Awakening Await?

In what some quarters are already calling the worst football transfer in the world, Ex-Chelsea manager Ruud Gullit has been appointed as the new boss of Terek Grozny, the beleaguered Russian region of Chechnya’s top club and 12th in the Russian Premier League.

You could say it is a long way from Chelsea to Chechnya both geographically and in terms of football – and you probably wouldn’t be far wrong.  Yet what people are really scratching their heads about is what exactly Gullit was thinking about when he took the wallet.  The general consensus seems to be his wallet.

His immediate boss will now be Ramzan Kadyrov the President of Chechnya who isn’t exactly one of those cute bears you see as mascots east of what was the Iron Curtain.  If you can think of a human rights abuse, Kadyrov has probably been accused of it, both during his tenure as rebel fighter and now as President of Chechnya.

Mr Kadyrov wants to use football as a way to enhance the image of his country both in the Russian Federation and abroad – even though most people would be happy enough for him to enhance human rights instead.  When Russia received the right to hold the World Cup in 2018 he lost no time in suggesting that Grozny was a perfect host city for some of the matches.

This in a city of 210,720 people – thanks to the war a little more than half of the population a decade before and which is still in the process of rebuilding after many years of carnage and destruction.  Even translated from Russian, the name of the city means variously "fearsome", "menacing", or "terrible".

The British Foreign Office still advises against any travel to Grozny for any reason.  Suicide bombings are not as common as they were but they still happen.  However, kidnap, with its associated torture and murder can be listed in their hundreds over the last few years.

Ruud Gullit has not yet traveled to Chechnya and he may want to google the country and make a few notes before he goes there.  Yet he has signed an 18 month contract sight unseen and has been promised money – lots of it – by President Kadyrov (pictured below) – to build up a team.

Gullit’s appointment comes shortly after the departure of Victor Munoz (who played for Spain and managed several clubs).  Munoz arrived in Grozny last week to take up the position but has since walked out.  Whether that is because of the dry bars, the gangs of youths who roam the streets shooting women who are not wearing Islamic headscarves or the lack of shopping on Putin Avenue (yes you read correctly), the Chechen answer to Carnaby Street, is unknown.

The Terek club has stated that he demanded changes to his contract that they were not willing to make, so perhaps the walkout was over football after all.  Regardless of the reason, it has given Gullit the opportunity to step in to Munoz’ shoes, take the money and stay.

There are no details about just how much money is involved.  However, it is imagined that the sum is considerable.  A Chechen businessman is now funding the club and the financial input is thought to be sufficient for the new manager to buy a number of world class players.  Mr Kadyrov has already demanded that the club finish in the top eight of the Russian premier league next season.  It seems Gullit has his work cut out for him.

Gullit may have to watch his temper when it comes to his Chechen colleagues.

He has something of a history of descending precipitously from his perambulator (one way of saying falling out of his pram) and has in the past walked out of the Dutch national team and argued with the Chelsea chairman.

Yet he also supported Nelson Mandela when the South African statesman was in prison and coined the phrase sexy football which points to a more liberal temperament than perhaps his new paymasters.

It can only be hoped that Gullit is not in for too much of a Ruud awakening.

Image Credits
President Kadyrov
Terek Grozny Logo
Ruud Gullit
President Kadyrov with gun Best Blogger Tips
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