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Chechen leader Kadyrov bags a hat-trick against footballing legends

Maradona, Figo and Fowler among the stars to turn out for World Veterans XI in last night’s exhibition game.

Alessandro Costacurta tries to dispossess Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov during last night's game.
Alessandro Costacurta tries to dispossess Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov during last night's game.
Image: Misha Japaridze/AP/Press Association Images

A HOST OF football’s biggest names were on display in Grozny last night as a Russian Select XI, led by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, beat a World Veterans XI 5-2.

Former Liverpool stars Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman joined forces with Diego Maradona, Luis Figo, Franco Baresi and Fabien Barthez for the friendly which was arranged to mark the opening of a renovated 30,000-seater stadium in the capital of the war-torn region.

Early goals from Maradona and Chilean international Ivan Zamorano allowed the visitors to take a 2-0 lead before a presidential hat-trick from Kadyrov inspired his men to a second-half comeback.

This is not the first time that Kadyrov has managed to persuade the game’s stars to visit Chechnya in an attempt to revamp the region’s global image. In March, an all-star Brazilian XI participated in a similar spectacle.

Despite Chechnya’s history of human rights abuses, those who took part in last night’s game unsurprisingly preferred to focus on the football.

“I really did not think whether it is scary to go to Grozny or not,” Figo told RIA Novosti afterwards.

“I like coming out on the field with my former club and international team-mates. It was a very interesting game, I was pleased to show what I can do again.”

I only thought about football and nothing else. I think it was a great football festival.

The evening was marred by reports that a small number of fans had been injured as they tried to get into the stadium. Over 100,000 people, many of whom were ticketless, gathered outside the stadium in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the stars.

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Niall Kelly

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