Grozny’s Relationship With Brazil Growing Ever Stronger

Leo Jaba during a game away against FC Rostov. Photo: Светлана Бекетова

Second, only to Spartak Moscow, Akhmat Grozny (formerly Terek Grozny) have had the most Brazilian players in the Russian Football Premier League (RFPL), totalling 15 including their three new signings this summer. In their Premier League history starting in 2005, with a two year gap until 2008, Akhmat have signed 61 players from foreign countries (excluding former Soviet nations Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Turkmenistan and Ukraine), and so with 15 of these being Brazilian, that means a whopping 25% of all Akhmat’s foreign players have been from the South American giant.

The turn of the last decade was then the influx really began, the first three Brazilians to join what was Terek Grozny at the time, Eder Gaucho (2005), David Lopes (2008) and Cleber (2009), only stayed for one season, but in 2010, Rodrigo Tiui, Mauricio and Antonio Ferreira all arrived in Grozny. Tiui was not a big hit, but Antonio Ferreira and particularly Mauricio, who later moved to Zenit St. Petersburg, enjoyed very successful stints in Grozny. In just his second season, central midfielder Mauricio was Terek’s top scorer with nine goals, the start of four consecutive seasons in which the top scorer for the Chechen side was a Brazilian, with Ailton Almeida topping the charts for the following three seasons between 12/13 and 14/15.

A breakdown of Akhmat's foreign signings as a RFPL club, with Brazilian's making up 25% of them

A breakdown of Akhmat’s foreign signings as an RFPL club, with Brazilian’s making up 25% of them

Ailton joined Terek at the same time as another central midfielder Adilson, who had three great seasons before falling to a long term injury and eventually returning back to Brazil in 2016. In 2015, experienced centre back and former Lokomotiv Moscow defender Rodolfo arrived in Grozny, and he has been an ever present figure in their defence since.

In fact, since 2008, there has always been at least one Brazilian playing for Terek, and in 2014 and 2015, there was a peak of five playing in Grozny at the same time. However over the last couple of years, there has been an exodus of sorts, and until the start of this transfer window, Rodolfo was the only one remaining

So just what is drawing the Brazilians to Grozny? Money is an obvious place to start. Akhmat is financially very stable, thanks to the government backing, with Chechnya’s all-powerful president Ramzan Kadyrov using the club as a political tool. They have never been huge spenders, but are able to compete when it comes to wages, enough to tempt Brazilians to join the club. However, the former seems to have altered this year, with substantial (for Akhmat) fees spent on a trio of young, promising Brazilians Leo Jaba, Ravanelli and Philipe Sampaio joining for a rumoured total of €6 million, with the biggest fee going out for 18-year-old Jaba.

MORE INFO: RFN Podcast – Football in Chechnya

Aside from money, Kadyrov has been known to bestow physical gifts to players when they score key goals or hit targets. Senegalese striker Ablaye Mbengue has, during his time in Grozny, received two cars as gifts for important goals. As a non-driver, he sold them and sent the money home to his family. Grozny is also, architecturally, a modern city as it has been rebuilt after the wars with Russia in the 1990s, and the new signings of 2017 have shown their amazement of their new home on social media, posting photos and videos of the vibrant skyline and fancy nightlife which is on offer to the new stars of the city.

The success of the pioneering Brazilian’s in Grozny’s can’t be ruled out as a factor either, with their recommendations certainly helping to persuade Brazilian’s joining in the future. Players like Rodolfo and Mauricio will no doubt have been asked to talk to potential signings before hand, to help sway them around with their stories about the city and league in general.

Akhmat’s ties with Brazil extend off the pitch as well, with Brazilian football icon Ronaldinho invited to attend the opening game of the 2017/2018 season as a special guest of Kadyrov’s. Grozny celebrated the re-naming of their club from Terek to Akhmat with a light show and fireworks display before kick off, and party after they had sealed a 1-0 victory, courtesy of the aforementioned Leo Jaba, who scored a fantastic solo effort.

 

In fact, this is not the first time Ronaldinho has visited Grozny. In 2011, a match was arranged between Terek and Brazilian Masters side, featuring Ronaldinho alongside fellow stars including Denilson, Cafu, Bebeto and Romario. The Brazilian’s ran out 6-4 winners in a game which Kadyrov himself featured and scored in while playing alongside players from Terek and other stars of football including Lothar Matthaus.

Rumours are persisting this summer about yet another Brazilian making the move to Grozny, with Swedish based midfielder Ismael linked to Akhmat, but reportedly having doubts about going to Russia. Since those doubts became public, Akhmat has signed their three Brazilians, and so perhaps the presence of four of his countrymen could now see Ismael make the move, with local media in Sweden reporting the deal could be done soon.

The three new boys have made an instant impact. As previously mentioned, Leo Jaba scored a fantastic winning goal on his debut against Amkar Perm, while Philipe Sampaio has been a mainstay in a defence which has kept three clean sheets in three games. Ravanelli starred in preseason with three goals but has only made one start in the league so far, with the foreigner limit playing its role there. This has seen Akhmat now sit third with nine points, only down by virtue of goals scored. Having finished fifth last season, they’ll be hoping that their Brazilian’s can fire them into European for the first time under their new name.

Author: David Sansun

Arsenal and Rubin Kazan fan. Possibly too optimistic for Russian football which means I’m left disappointed a lot.

Comments

  1. Ronaldinho hasn’t been visited Grozny in 2011 😉

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