Terek Grozny’s Name Change – A Political Tool

Ramzan Kadyrov and Dmitry Medvedev at the Akhmat Arena in Grozny. Photo: Kremlin.ru

Ramzan Kadyrov and Dmitry Medvedev at the Akhmat Arena in Grozny. Photo: Kremlin.ru

In the recently finished season, Terek Grozny finished fifth. It was the best result ever by the Chechen side, who have played in the Russian Football Premier League since 2008. Under the guidance of head coach Rashid Rakhimov, who has led the club for three years, the team has developed gradually, finishing each season in a better position than in the last. Now however, it seems that the pressure on the team is about to skyrocket as the club has a new name.

“Dear friends,” Ramzan Kadyrov, president of the Republic of Chechnya and honorary president of Terek, wrote on his infamous Instagram account Wednesday. “It’s a great honour for me to inform all football fans that the Grozny football club is now called Akhmat.”

Akhmat was the name of Kadyrov’s father, who was also Chechnya’s first president.

Akhmat Kadyrov supported Chechen independence following the fall of the Soviet Union, and in the First Chechen War, he was a militia commander fighting against Russia. Later, he served as the Chief Mufti, an important religious title among Muslims. Kadyrov however, was critical of the extremist Wahhabis, who fought alongside the Chechens, who wanted independence, and by the time of the Second Chechen War, which was fought between 1999 and 2000, he changed his allegiance and helped Russia.

By the end of the war, he was rewarded for this by Vladimir Putin, who appointed him acting head of Chechnya, and in 2003, he became the republic’s first president. Less than a year later, however, he was murdered in a terror attack in Grozny during the Victory Day celebrations.

The day after the murder of his father, Ramzan Kadyrov was appointed deputy prime minister of the Chechen Republic, and the year after he became acting prime minister, and then president in 2007.

Since then, Kadyrov has controlled every little detail in the republic, including the football club Terek.

He has imposed strict sharia laws, and the rules of Islam supersede the rules of the Russian Federation, perfectly exemplified when Kadyrov allowed a police chief to take a second wife, something that’s illegal in Russia. The lengths he allows his followers to go to uphold the Islamic rules, and the rules themselves, has often seen him heavily criticized for breaching human rights. Earlier this year, he stole the headlines of international media when it was revealed that homosexuals were actively hunted, detained, tortured and even killed across Chechnya, to which Kadyrov responded that there were no homosexuals in Chechnya and had never been.

At the same time, he has developed a habit of naming things after his father, including the Akhmat Kadyrov Mosque in Grozny, one of Russia’s largest, Terek’s home ground, the Akhmat Arena as well as numerous martial arts clubs.

Speaking to TASS, general director of Terek, Akhmed Aidamirov, explained that the name change has happened after requests from fans, and added: “We will try to be worthy of his name.”

On Instagram, Kadyrov explained that he was reluctant to change the name due to the pressure it would place on the team.

“The assignment of the name Akhmat to the team entrusts each of us, to everyone who calls himself a member of Akhmat-Hadji’s team, a huge responsibility.”

“A club bearing the name of the Great Akhmat-Hadji, a man of legend, a man who saved our people and Russia from international terrorism, a man who gave his life for the sake of saving millions of other people’s lives, MUST PLAY A HUNDRED TIMES BETTER THAN IN THE PREVIOUS YEARS!”

Terek is Kadyrov’s Political Tool

This is far from the first time Kadyrov use Terek to his own political advantage. Although UEFA forced him to resign as president of the club in 2011, he remains the de-facto owner and president of Terek.

With the support of his close friend and ally Putin, Kadyrov has spent billions and billions of rubles on rebuilding the previously so war-torn Chechnya, and Terek serves as the symbol of the reconstruction and stabilization of the region. Part of the money Kadyrov has received from the Kremlin has been reinvested in Terek, for example in the ultra-modern Akhmat Arena, which stood ready for opening in 2011.

For the opening match, Kadyrov arranged a friendly between Team Caucasus, which included himself and Rinat Dasaev among others, against Team World, which consisted of stars such as Diego Maradona, Luis Figo and Franco Baresi, in a game which the home side won.

Perhaps part of the money spent on the opening should have been used to pay the people working on the stadium, as many workers claimed they had been forced to work for free during the construction, while others complained that they even had to bring their own food and pay for their transportation to the site.

On Kadyrov’s Instagram account, his preferred social media network, he often uploads pictures of himself with various celebrities invited to Chechnya, including action stars Jean Claude van Damme and Steven Seagal. At the same time, the Team World that opened the Akhmat Arena was far from a one-time thing. On multiple occasions, Kadyrov has invited former greats to Chechnya to play football. This happened for example in 2015, when he celebrated Putin’s 63rd birthday with an exhibition match in his honor. There, Kadyrov’s team, named Leader-63 on the occasion, beat an Italian all-star team with players like Dino Baggio, Angelo Di Livio, Baresi and Salvatore Schillaci 4-1.

With the name change of Terek, the political purpose of the club becomes even more obvious.

Toke Møller Theilade

Author: Toke Møller Theilade

Brøndby supporter, groundhopper and more importantly Editor-in-Chief at Russianfootballnews.com. As a hopeless romantic, I still believe Fyodor Smolov and Viktoria Lopyreva has a future together.

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