Gullit arrives on Chechen mission

AFP, Wednesday 9 Feb 2011

Dutch football legend Ruud Gullit landed in the Chechen capital on Wednesday to the cheers of hundreds of Terek Grozny supporters who hope to see him make their side the new darling of Europe

Ruud Gullit

The two-time world footballer of the year draped a green Chechen republic scarf around his neck and smiled broadly as fans chanted Gullit's name and performed traditional Caucasus dances around the global superstar.

Gullit last month admitted being "stunned" to be named the manager of a squad that only returned to Grozny in 2008 after a 15-year absence caused by two brutal wars.

But the small Caucasus side with only one Russian Cup to its credit has secured a place in the country's premier league and is now hoping to ride Gullit's coattails to international success.

The former Dutch team captain was due Wednesday to meet the republic's authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov -- an avid sports fan who personally lured Gullit to Chechnya -- and tour the war-ravaged city before meeting reporters.

Terek Grozny was formed in 1958 but then simply vanished when war came to Chechnya in the 1990s and did not play again until 2001.

It finished in 12th place last year -- two places above the relegation zone and 35 points behind champions Zenit Saint Petersburg.

Sports observers say that Terek has a youthful and talented side that could quickly climb the table if Gullit brings international experience to the team.

Still, Grozny's persistent security worries left many observers shocked by the move. The Chechen capital was reportedly rocked by four small explosions late Tuesday and early Wednesday that injured several Russian servicemen.

Gullit told a Russian sports daily last month that he would "only be coming to Grozny for the matches" and spending the rest of his time at a team training base about 200 kilometres (120 miles) west of the Chechen capital.

Gullit, 1987 European player of the year, is one of the most successful players in Dutch football.
He was part of the scintillating Dutch side that won the 1988 European championships, while at club level he also won the 1989 and 1990 Champions League with AC Milan.

The 48-year-old has previously coached English Premiership sides Chelsea and Newcastle United along with Dutch giants Feyenoord and MLS club Los Angeles Galaxy.

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