RPL stadiums: Akhmat Arena

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On 20 May 2011 Terek (now Akhmat) Grozny played their first Russian Premier Liga home match at the 30,000-seater Akhmat Kadyrov Arena.

World Team at Grand Opening

The order to build a football stadium in Grozny in 2004 was given by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Even then, it was decided that it would be named after the former head of the Chechen Republic, Akhmat Kadyrov, who died in a terrorist attack on 9 May that year. Construction began in 2006 and ended five years later, with the streets adjacent to the stadium named after Lev Yashin and Umar Sadaev, the latter was one of the best scorers in FC Terek’s history.

On 11 May, the arena hosted a festive opening show and a friendly match. A Caucasus Team led by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, Rinat Dasaev, and including former and current players of the club, beat a team of world stars featuring Fabien Barthez, Luis Figo and Diego Maradona 5-2. The first official game of the Akhmat Arena took place on 20 May in front of 30,000 spectators as FC Terek beat Anzhi Makhachkala 1-0 thanks to a Blagoy Georgiev goal.

In addition to football matches, the stadium once hosted a boxing night. In July 2014, Uzbekistan’s Ruslan Chagaev defeated American Fres Oquendo for the WBA world heavyweight belt. The Akhmat Arena was also used at the 2018 World Cup, but as a training pitch. During the tournament, the Egyptian national team was based in Grozny.

Most Memorable RPL Match: Terek 4-2 Spartak Moscow (11 May 2015)

Before leaving for Grozny, the Red-Whites had missed out on a win over Zenit St. Petersburg and fallen seven points behind the top three to rest sixth in the table. In Grozny, the visitors had a successful first half. Vyacheslav Krotov put them ahead with his debut RPL goal, and although Spartak also earned two of six yellow cards, FC Terek captain Oleg Ivanov was sent off for a push on Denis Davydov.

Despite being a man down, the hosts’ fightback began just four minutes after the break before they took the lead minutes later thanks to an Ablaye Mbengue double. The Senegalese striker was playing in only his second match for FC Terek: in the first, he had scored the winning goal against FC Rostov.

Spartak equalized after a strike by Quincy Promes, but despite remaining level heading into added time, they left Grozny without a point. Ailton, who had come on as a substitute, put FC Terek back in front in the 90th minute, and in added time scored his second to make it 4-2.

Rashid Rakhimov’s team finally secured safety from the relegation play-off matches and deprived Spartak of a shot at European qualification. The Terek Grozny management generously rewarded the team as players were paid a double bonus, and Mbengue was given a car.

Main Match: CSKA 1-1 (4-3 pens) Anzhi (Russian Cup final 2012/13)

The stadium in Grozny was awarded the right to host the Russian Cup Final in April 2013, and the final itself was held on 1 June. CSKA Moscow and Anzhi stretched the final to a penalty shootout in front of a full house. Ahmed Musa and Lassana Diarra scored the goals in normal time, and at the end of the second half the Armymen went down to 10 men as Pontus Wernbloom received a red card for a dangerous challenge on Lacina Traore.

Anzhi didn’t take advantage in extra time, and in the shootout they failed to convert two attempts. Yuriy Zhirkov's shot was kept out by Igor Akinfeev, while Jucilei blazed over the bar. The winning penalty for CSKA was scored by Seydou Doumbia to secure a domestic double. Earlier in May, they had become national champions for the first time since 2006.

CSKA manager Leonid Slutskiy rated the final’s organization as "five plus", and Alan Dzagoev was not confused by the fact that almost the entire stadium was rooting for Anzhi: “There were very few CSKA fans, but I am sure that Moscow supported us. Nothing was wrong. We are used to the fact that we often find ourselves with little support. For example, for the game against Manchester United there were 72,000 fans who weren’t ours, today 30,000 supported against us. This is normal.”

“Capello kept saying: "Fantastic!”

FC Terek made their debut at the Akhmat Arena when the team was coached by Ruud Gullit. “This arena deserves to be admired,” the Dutchman told the players before the first training session at the stadium. “We were all happy yesterday at the opening ceremony, and we saw how happy and proud our fans were. Now our task is to prolong their joy, so that they will be proud of our victories. There should be one winner at the Akhmat-Hadji Kadyrov stadium: FC Terek.”

Fabio Capello also managed to appreciate the arena in Grozny when he coached the Russian national team and came to the Russian Cup final. “We gave him a tour,” Haidar Alkhanov, Vice-President of FC Terek, recalled in an interview with Sovetskiy Sport. “We took him all over the city and told him about its history. We went to the Terek youth academy and showed the grounds and pitches, and told him about the Akhmat Arena. Capello kept saying: “Fantastic! Fantastic!” He was very impressed by what he saw. I then told him that it was time for the senior Russian team to hold a friendly match there to start, and then an official one.”

The national team played at the Akhmat Arena after Capello's departure. In November 2016, the team led by Stanislav Cherchesov, who had worked at FC Terek from 2011 to 2013, beat Romania in a friendly match 1-0. “I knew that the Akhmat Arena was like this all the time, I knew that the support would help us. Thank you for the warm welcome from the team,” the coach said after the game.

The atmosphere in Grozny was also noted by Akhmat's rivals. “There is always a very footballing atmosphere here, it is always nice to play in Grozny,” former Krylia Sovetov Samara striker Sergey Kornilenko said in 2013. “I like it when a lot of fans warmly support their own. This gives extra emotions.”

Half of the stadium was built in almost six months

The original capacity of the arena was 20,000, but by the decision of Ramzan Kadyrov it eventually increased to 3,000. The stadium consists of two stands: the western one is designed for 9,000  fans, and the eastern one, built in an oval shape, for 21,000.

Director of the stadium Magamed Matsuev recalled in 2016 that about six months before the completion of the project, it was not even half ready. “In September 2010, the construction of the Akhmat Arena was 40% completed,” Matsuev told SE. “The Slovak general contractor had problems, even though the work had been carried out for several years.  At the same time, Ramzan Akhmatovich set a deadline to hand over the object in the spring of 2011.

Builders began to work in three shifts, the project leader personally supervised that everyone came to the stadium at three o'clock at night, and even ministers came wearing boots and followed everything. We managed the task: the stadium opened in May and is still functioning.”

This text uses materials from the official website of Akhmat Grozny and Krylia Sovetov Samara, Sport-Express and Sovetskiy Sport newspapers.

Photos: Akhmat, Akhmat Stadium, Russian Football Union


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