The bizarre sojourn of Dutch football legend Ruud Gullit in Chechnya ended last night, as he was unceremoniously sacked as manager of the region's leading football team, Terek Grozny.
The club, run by Chechnya's President Ramzan Kadyrov, had previously released a long-winded statement laying into Gullit's personality, tactics and attitude, and said the Dutchman would be sacked if Terek did not win their upcoming match. Last night's game ended with a last-minute own goal and defeat for the Chechen side, and minutes after the final whistle, Terek confirmed Gullit had been fired.
The original ultimatum from Terek read like a Stalinist denunciation of Gullit, accusing the former Chelsea and Newcastle manager of lying to the press and slandering the name of Chechnya. It also said that Terek's results since he became manager had been unacceptable, with the club languishing near the bottom of Russia's Premier League. Gullit was appointed to the job in January, and admitted that part of the motivation for taking the job was the excellent money.
Mr Kadyrov, a former insurgent now backed by Moscow who has been implicated in a number of torture cases and murder inquiries, is Terek's president and its biggest fan, often showing up at training and exhorting players to perform better. He is a controversial figure even in Russia, and given his reputation, the club's statement had an ominous ring to it. Terek said that Mr Kadyrov was "extremely unhappy" with Gullit's attitude.
"Gullit's actions over the last half a year show that he has no idea about the players and the team," said the statement. "The team has no flowing play, no recognisable style. Terek has never played so badly."
The Grozny club was angered by an interview given to a British newspaper recently, in which Gullit complained of a lack of funds for player purchases, and of poor infrastructure at the club.
What really seems to have angered the Chechens, however, was a throwaway remark from Gullit that he had not invited friends from home to visit him in Chechnya because of a lack of nightlife and available alcohol. "I miss my friends in Holland," he said in the interview. "They have visited me everywhere but why would they come here? You can't have a drink and you can't communicate with anyone."
These words prompted a furious diatribe from Terek. "Gullit should know that we invited him not to nightclubs but to work in a football club," raged the club statement. "Ramzan Kadyrov is extremely unhappy with the approach of Ruud Gullit to his duties. Instead of pulling up his sleeves and getting on with it, he is thinking of bars and discos." It's true, said the Terek statement, that "in Chechnya there is not the drug addiction and awful nightlife venues that are everywhere in Holland and Europe". However, the club listed a range of alternative activities on offer to "people who enjoy a healthy lifestyle", including parks and "ice palaces".
"Based on all of this," the statement concluded, "Ramzan Kadyrov has set Ruud Gullit the task of taking three points in Perm. Otherwise, Gullit will be fired." Terek were unable to score at fellow strugglers Amkar Perm, going down 1-0.