Rai: “I am Ashamed to be a Participant of the Match in Chechnya”
Brazilian veteran football player Rai published an open letter on his official website titled: “Chechnya: The Day that I was Betrayed” in reference to his shame about playing in Chechnya.
“Just over a month ago, I received an invitation from intermediaries to be a participant in a game in the Russian Federation, the country that will host the 2018 World Championship. The event would be for the inauguration of a new stadium and the match would be against a local team which is lead by Ruud Gullit. I was on a vacation with my partner who is responsible for conducting these negotiations, and I accepted the proposal if everything was confirmed and the payment was made 10 days before travel. I confess that there was a lack of information and I behaved with recklessness to confirm everything. But, frankly, my decision was not motivated by financial gain. What I earned, it didn’t change anything in my economic situation. My naive thought was this: I had attended similar things in Europe before, and this time it would be in Russia. I would meet with old friends and also earn a quick buck. Only a few days before our travel, I noticed that the location of the match was changed; it would now be in Chechnya. This news made me feel strange because I knew that there was a war, but recent reports were saying that the situation had calmed down at the moment. However, I decided to go because it was an honor to commit. What happened there was I became part of something that we condemn in this life. I attended an event that was blatantly political and populist, and without knowing the possible consequences and intentions. Until our arrival in Grozny, the Chechen capital, everything was a great joy, because friends were reunited. Immediately, memories of everything that came to pass in the big victories returned. But the fact is that there a military climate in Grozny: giant photos of men who are in power are all around and very few people are seen on the streets. Something seemed very strange to me. Only later I learned from a Russian interpreter that 98% of the city was destroyed during the war. I imagined the memories of people who saw those battles and still live there. I also heard that some NGOs are accusing the current head of the republic of human rights violations. Based on what I saw there, it would not surprise me. We arrived in Grozny in the beginning of the afternoon. We ate and went to the theater in one of the reconstructed buildings, for a presentation of traditional dances and music, also with an international attraction. We were received very kindly by all. We stayed in a hotel with reasonable conditions. Just hours before the game, we learned that the president, Kadyrov and his companions would be our opponents. The only good news was the duration of the game: only two halves of 25 minutes each. The officers asked us not to play with full force, it was like a joke. Score aside, I took two important lessons from this stupidity (how I felt): I will closely follow the political process in Russia and Chechnya, and will much more alert to these possible lapses of evaluation. I can say that this experience was at least as an important learning experience. I write this letter because the same manner and with the same intensity that I wanted to hide after the event, I need to expose myself and express my shame,” said Brazilian football player Rai.
*Text was translated by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco