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French football legend Zidane to attend opening of Grozny stadium

Former football world champion Zinedine Zidane is set to attend the inauguration ceremony of Grozny's stadium in Russia's war-torn republic of Chechnya next month, a local official reported Thursday.


AFP - French football legend Zinedine Zidane will visit Russia's war-torn republic of Chechnya next month, where he will attend the opening of a new stadium, a top local official said Thursday.

Akhmad Kadyrov stadium, named for the late Chechen leader who was killed in a 2004 bomb blast while attending a ceremony in the republic's current main stadium, is due to open in the capital Grozny on May 9.

The new park marks an important step in a drive by Akhmad Kadyrov's son Ramzan, the republic's current leader, to make sport into a social vehicle that can prevent kids from joining Islamist militant groups.

Chechen sport chief Haidar Alkhanov said Zidane had already accepted an invitation to attend the opening ceremony, and that negotiations were currently under way to secure the presence of UEFA chief Michel Platini.

"We hope that the great Platini will come to Grozny, but Zidane has already confirmed his participation," the Chechen sports minister was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

The Chechen leadership has lavished attention on the republic's football club Terek Grozny, a tiny side which this year is being coached by former Dutch international Ruud Gullit.

Last month, Ramzan Kadyrov led a local squad in an Grozny exhibition match against Brazilian veterans including 1994 World Cup winners like Bebeto and Dunga.

Although now partially rebuilt, Grozny has been devastated by two wars in the past 15 years in which Chechen militants sought independence from Russia, costing the lives of tens of thousands.

The city still experiences sporadic violence, with shootings and bomb blasts occurring on a weekly basis.

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