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Chechen Team Terek Grozny Wins Football Cup Final

Published: June 1, 2004 (Issue # 973)


MOSCOW - There can have been few sports occasions in Moscow as dramatic, politically charged or surreal as Saturday's Russian Cup soccer final.

Chechen club Terek Grozny joined the likes of Newcastle, Millwall and Monaco in Europe club competition after a last-minute goal snatched a stunning 1-0 victory over Krylia Sovietov Samara.

More than just a sports upset - the first division club beating the premier league side - Terek's win was also a political event, featuring the tears of a son for a slain father and Chechens dancing and cheering on the streets of Moscow.

Twenty days after a bomb explosion killed Akhmad Kadyrov, the president of Chechnya and also of Terek Grozny, during Victory Day commemorations at Dynamo stadium in Grozny, a 90th-minute goal from Terek's top scorer Andrei Fedkov gave his side an unlikely win.

"This is for the late president," said Terek coach Vait Talgaev after the game. "He did everything for the club."

Terek's win was an amazing result for a team that did not exist four years ago - and a huge propaganda coup for the Kremlin, which has masterminded the return of the club as part of its attempts to restore normality to Chechnya.

About 17,000 fans watched the match at Lokomotiv stadium, with more than 1,000 Chechen fans chanting and cheering their side on.

Many of Terek's supporters had traveled about 1,500 kilometers from Chechnya, passing through numerous military and police checkpoints and running the gauntlet of antagonistic Moscow authorities and the public.

As well as ordinary fans, watching from the most expensive seat in the ground was Ramzan Kadyrov, the 27-year-old son of the assassinated president, vice president of the club and first deputy prime minister of the republic.

Sitting nearby were Chechen Prime Minister Sergei Abramov and controversial Moscow businessman Umar Dzhabrailov, the current Chechen representative in the Federation Council. All three are powerful players in Chechnya.

Before the match, a minute's silence was held for Kadyrov, then the Russian national anthem blared out. Chechens, with a few exceptions, and Russians stood up throughout. A huge poster of the late Chechen leader, with the words, "We Remember You," was spread over the seats in one section of the stadium.

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