Maradona opens stadium in Grozny

A whole bunch of football celebrities, including arguably the best footballer in history, Diego Maradona, arrived in Grozny on Wednesday evening for the opening ceremony of a brand new stadium in the Chechen capital.

­Football stars of the past came to attend the opening ceremony and play a friendly game against a team of Russian politicians and sportsmen.

The match was preceded by a concert, involving such stars as C. C. Catch and Toto Cutugno, and a 25-minute spectacular laser show.

Chechen President Ramazn Kadyrov officially opened the arena and addressed the crowd, saying: "We are happy that cutting-edge facilities like this stadium are being built in Chechnya. The republic is reviving, we are on the right path."

All those who came to the stadium also received free t-shirts with a portrait of the Chechen president and the caption: “Russia – 2018 World Champions!”   

Kadyrov promised that Chechnya will raise soccer stars to contribute to Russia’s success at the 2018 World Cup, which Russia is hosting.

In the friendly, the Team of Stars was led by Diego Maradona and featured Allen Bogosian, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta, Luis Figo, Manuel Amoros, Roberto Ayala, Robbie Fowler, Enzo Francescoli, Steve McManaman, Jean-Pierre Papin, Christian Vieri, Ivan Zamorano and Fabien Barthez.

Meanwhile, the home side was captained by the Russian president’s envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District, Aleksandr Khloponin, who was substituted out after five minutes of play.

Kadyrov himself also appeared on the pitch, taking the position of striker.

Several heads of the regions of the Northern Caucasus, as well as prominent veterans of Russian soccer, including Rinat Dasaev, Nikolay Pisarev and Dmitry Alenichev, formed the rest of the united Caucasus team.

Former Real Madrid star Ivan Zamorano scored the historic first goal in the new arena, on an assist from the very active Luis Figo, 1-0.

And then Maradona himself doubled the Team of Stars’ lead, curving the ball into the opponents’ net on a free-kick, 2-0.

But the home side managed to come back and break the Stars’ defense, sending them off with a 5-2 victory, much to the delight of the Grozny fans.  

The new facility is named after the first president of the Chechen Republic, Ahmad Kadyrov, father of the incumbent head, Ramzan Kadyrov. Ahmad Kadyrov was assassinated by Chechen separatists in Grozny seven years ago.

With a capacity of 30,000, the sports arena will become the largest of the most up-to-date and technically designed venues in southern Russia.

Apart from the main arena, the sports center will also have a training field with a natural pitch, a 1,000-seat grandstand and a training field with an artificial pitch. It is also planned to build a sports palace seating 5,000, swimming pools for 500 people, tennis courts, volleyball and basketball grounds as well as halls for boxing and wrestling.

It is the second event of such scale taking place in Grozny since the start of the year. On March 10 a team led by Ramzan Kadyrov matched up against a Brazilian squad featuring players from the 1994 and 2002 World Cup-winning Brazilian national teams.

­Watch RT’s live broadcast from Grozny

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