Of football, Islam and music.

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Makhachkala, end October 2011

A song by russian legend rockband Nautilus Pompilius echoing from a cottage facing the Caspian seaside, at the hearth of Caucasus’ most prone to Islam republic (impromptu serenade by local ultras). Federal hymn loudvoiced by half (well, it’s a lot) of local football arena visitors. Girls-bodyguard (well, just eight) flanking massive Security at stadium: mostly kickboxing and martial arts female professionals, no scarf. Apparently, secular Makhachkala is still there.

Our friends again surprised us, down there in Daghestan. End october I got back to Makachkala invited from Anzhi Club, for the adv of a new Suleiman Kerimov’s project: after the purchase of world top players Eto’O and Carlos, to improve his and republic’s image, now the famous russian oligarch plans to turn whole Daghestan into a football field, backing out fresh talents. The youth-addressed 25mln$ project is obviously a tribute to Kremlin/Putin to avoid “problems” encountered by other russian oligarchs. But also a bet for Russia’s 2018 World Football Championship. The story is well known – as doubts about its scope and success are: can football solve all problems in a place holding a record in Russia for terror acts, poor economy, jobless, corruption? Funny enough, kids of 7-17 ys will benefit Kerimov’s project. According to a recent statistic, average age of local armed rebels has now dropped down to… 17-24 ys.

But there’s still no surprise here. The ‘new’ is that “football fever” seems indeed to rise in Makhachkala. Match at city’s stadium was a great show of enthusiasm and “politKorrect” support for the local Club by an audience of 97% men – granddads, dads, boys, kids and Security guys. But also some girls, excited at the event, unique in his genre for Daghestan. Hardest fans  yelled from the sector of new Anzhi Ultrà Fan Club “Dikaya Divisia” (Wild Division, the name comes from a Caucasian Battalion siding with Tsar’s 2 centuries ago): no angry slogans, no swearing, just “Vpered, Kavkaz!”. Well, true, Cska supporters didn’t showed up at all… Anyway, compared to russian ultras, daghiz seem ballerinas. Football, they assure, perfectly matches with Islam, if fans retain from aggressive stance.

Surprisingly, they’re not alone in their belief. The “other Daghestan”,  where strict salafism is gaining fast growing support among young people, also loves football. And sees no contradiction between it and “pure Islam”. You just need to “correct” some small game rules before… That’s how the Salaf-Liga, a regular although unregistered season small football championship, was born in town (I published a short story ab. them). A success. Just please – don’t curse the referee!

(FAQ: Do Carlos knows by hearth russian-soviet hymn?; Yes, some local girls would die to play in, but are not included in the project; Oct 23 match Anzhi-Cska ended 3-5, harshest reaction heard from fans was “Shame!” ; Hypsta-pics in the Intermezzo show Kerimov’s new hotel complex Dzhamia (Mosque) outside Kaspyisk, as the beach, bordering a huge Fsb base)

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Filed under Islam in Russia and former Ussr, Russia/ ex Soviet Space

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