Ramzan Kadyrov staged another massive tribute to himself tonight as big-name Brazilian footballers rolled into Chechnya's capital for an exhibition match against a local team.
AFP, via "The Telegraph
Bebeto, Cafu, Dunga and Romario – all veterans of Brazil's World Cup winning side in 1994 – were among the players to fly into Grozny for Tuesday night's game.
The event was ostensibly organized to promote the North Caucasus republic and its capital -- which the Gustey travel network last year listed at No. 7
(between Rio and Baghdad) on the most dangerous travel destinations in the world -- as a model of stability.
It's presumably all part of a jaw-dropping, cash-fueled campaign
to lure international football stars to the North Caucasus.
Kadyrov -- who is accused of corruption and complicity or worse
in contract-style killings -- has insisted in typically dismissive style that the Brazilians played for free and "out of respect for the Chechen people."
The 10,000 or so fans on hand in a stadium reportedly "bursting to the seams despite heavy security presence" loved it, including the accompanying "massive firework display."
After casually referring to Kadyrov, who's accused by rights defenders of heinous atrocities, as "a hate figure for rights activists," the AFP article notes that "vast portraits of [Kadyrov's slain father] Akhmad Kadyrov as well as Kadyrov's allies, President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, adorned the stadium."
But as has been well documented -- whether it's a grand mansion
in his mother's hands, costly stunts
in the name of the children, or just daily life under his watchful visage in the capital
-- in Chechnya these days, it's always about Ramzan. So it's appropriate that the playboy-cum-Kremlin-boy-toy would get to captain the local club and live out a childhood dream with some help from the opposition and the referee
In the end, the Brazilians won the spectacle, 6-4, perhaps because the Chechen strongman is partial to billiards
Anything to amuse. And distract.
-- RFE/RL Central Newsroom