Sunday, April 10
“I am Ashamed to be a Participant of the Match in Chechnya” Raí Brazilian Football Player
In a world where ethics and measuring consequences for one's actions is fundamental a Brazilian football player give an incredible examples of dignity, integrity and concern with human beings. I just came across with this letter Raí left at his site in 23 March, 2011.
It is about a game he attended in Chechnya that can be seen as a practical joke played by Chechen leaders. Here is the translation of the letter and I want to thank Raí for not only his commitment to Brazilian's children but also for his convictions that makes him an activist of humans rights and also as a man that can be an idol and a role-model as an athlete and someone who fights for his beliefs.
“Chechnya: The Day that I was Betrayed”
“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. 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. But, frankly, my decision was not motivated by financial gain.
What I earned didn’t change anything in my economic situation and is the equivalent to what I charge for a two hours lecture in São Paulo and much less than what I donate frequently to human rights projects. Only a few days before our travel, I was notified that the location of the match had changed; it would now be in Chechnya. This news made me feel strange because I knew about a hideous war was taking place there between Chechenian separatits and the Russian army.
However recent reports were saying that the situation had calmed down for a certain period of time. I tried to inform myself about the president of that republic but maybe I didn't search well enough. I decided to go to honor a commitment I did. What happened was I became part of something that I most condemn in my life. I attended an event that was blatantly political and populist, and without knowing the possible consequences and intentions.
I'm sure that what is happening in the Arabic world demonstrates that a soccer game and some of it's idols will not change ideological convictions but the outcome of this choice is in me. I felt terrible because I act inconsequently and didn't take the criteria I usually do. When after the game I realized what was really at stake I felt like hiding of everything and everybody, me included. 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 was 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 surprises 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. It was the only moment that I got close to the population that seemed fine. Women was the vast majority at the audience because it was 8 March, international women's day and many of them had their mobiles filming everything. I can even say that it was a pleasant moment and I could feel, even if for a few moments, the human part of that city that tries to build itself again.
We stood in a hotel in reasonable conditions practically in the statium of the home team that has many Brazilian football players. The statium was sold out and 15.000 people sang all the time. 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". Even thou Gullit and Mattaus were at the opponent team, there was no condition whatsoever for a true game. Besides the president there were others that have never been a footballer athlete. It was like playing in the backyard, but the audience seemed happy. Score aside, I took two important lessons from this stupidity (that is 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 an important learning experience. I write this letter the same way and with the same intensity that I wanted to hide after the event, I need to expose myself and express my shame." Raí Souza Vieira de Oliveira
Update: Someone left a comment and with a link for this site about Chechnya. I added the label Anna Politkovskaya to this post. She was a great human being and very concerned with Chechnya. May her R.I.P. There is a video-documentary at this site about her with captions in English.