Tag Archives: terrain

Anzhi Makhachkala – who are the team facing Liverpool

Just who are Anzhi Makhachkala The extraordinary story of the billionaire Russians hoping to topple Liverpool

|

UPDATED:

16:03 GMT, 24 October 2012

The Russian Republic of Dagestan, with its mountainous terrain, has been a place of sanctuary for people of all ethnicities and backgrounds over the centuries. And this remains as true today as ever.

But while it was once impoverished nomads and refugees who settled there, it is now more likely to be multi-millionaire young men playing football.

The region’s football side, Anzhi Makhachkala, are in the throes of a new Russian Revolution, one which their oligarch owners hope will deliver them to the summit of not only the national, but the European, game.

Big names: Guus Hiddink and Roberto Carlos have been enticed to Anzhi as manager and technical director respectively

Big names: Guus Hiddink and Roberto Carlos have been enticed to Anzhi as manager and technical director respectively

Destination Dagestan: Samuel Eto'o signed for Anzhi from Inter Milan and reportedly earns 350,000 a week at the Russian club

Destination Dagestan: Samuel Eto'o signed for Anzhi from Inter Milan and reportedly earns 350,000 a week at the Russian club

In the next two weeks, Liverpool will find out first-hand how far they’ve come. This is a Europa League double-header with much more than first meets the eye.

The story of Anzhi is one of eye-watering quantities of money being thrown at a club who three years ago languished in the second division, and of enticing star quality names like Samuel Eto’o, Roberto Carlos and Yuri Zhirkov to come and play in one of the most volatile and hostile regions on earth.

Dagestan is a place where mafia gangs control billion-dollar industries like oil, gold and potash (not to mention caviar from the Caspian Sea), where kidnapping, bombings, violence, threats and intimidation are commonplace, and where everyone owns a gun.

Yet amidst the killings, the lawlessness and a separatist struggle with Moscow, local billionaire Suleyman Kerimov is trying to build an all-conquering team from absolutely nothing.

Money man: Oligarch Suleyman Kerimov is bankrolling Anzhi's bid to conquer Russia and Europe

Money man: Oligarch Suleyman Kerimov is bankrolling Anzhi's bid to conquer Russia and Europe

Liverpool will not see any of Dagestan’s turmoil as the away group stage tie, on November 8, will be played at the Lokomotiv Stadium in Moscow, 1600km to the north, due to UEFA’s enduring ban on European games being played in Makhachkala.

It is one of the many curiosities of the Anzhi story that this will actually be a ‘local’ match for the players and their well-regarded coach Guus Hiddink. They live and train just outside of Moscow, flying first-class to all their domestic home matches at the rickety, Soviet-era Dynamo Stadium.

The squad cover nearly 50,000 miles a season just to fulfil their home fixtures.

It ensures a plush, pampered and most importantly safe lifestyle for players like Eto’o, who at 30 might be accused at playing at a standard beneath him until you realise his wage packet is reportedly 350,000 a week.

Eto’o was recently filmed by a group of French documentary makers inspecting his new Moscow penthouse, complete with private lift, sauna, swimming pool and 360 degree panoramic views of the historic capital.

Pointing the way forward: Eto'o has nine goals in 13 outings so far this season

Pointing the way forward: Eto'o has nine goals in 13 outings so far this season

Roberto Carlos, 39, winner of the World Cup in 2002, finished his playing days with Anzhi and is now their sporting director. His last birthday present was a 1.8m Bugatti Veyron sports car, personally procured by Kerimov’s small change.

Also in the squad is Christopher Samba, signed for 12.3m as Blackburn hurtled towards relegation from the Premier League last season. He earns 100,000 a week but has been the victim of racist abuse in the Russian League.

He told BBC Sport this week: ‘This is a very ambitious club and we have attracted a lot of players. This is not just about money – this is a proper sports project.

‘People don’t come here just to chill and win a pay cheque. We’re putting in a shift on the pitch and at the moment it’s working.’

Solid as a rock: Christopher Samba joined Anzhi from Blackburn for 12.3m last season

Solid as a rock: Christopher Samba joined Anzhi from Blackburn for 12.3m last season

Zhirkov, who spent two years at Chelsea, joined for 13.2m in August 2011, and another former Stamford Bridge face, Lassana Diarra, moved from Real Madrid this year.

They’re guided by Hiddink, another Chelsea connection of course, who was picked ahead of Fabio Capello for the job in February. His pay cheque is worth 8.3m a year.

/10/24/article-2222466-15A9B16B000005DC-694_634x458.jpg” width=”634″ height=”458″ alt=”Chelsea connection: Yuri Zhirkov has linked up with former boss Hiddink at Anzhi” class=”blkBorder” />

Chelsea connection: Yuri Zhirkov has linked up with former boss Hiddink at Anzhi

They’re also getting more and more ambitious in their recruitment. There were sensational reports in the summer of Anzhi trying to woo Robin Van Persie with a 45m transfer fee and 300,000-a-week. Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic is also reportedly on their shopping list for January.

Just 18 months ago, this would have been unthinkable when Kerimov, a 46-year-old billionaire who made his fortune from investments in the region’s lucrative gold, silver and potash mines, took control.

The region’s President, Magomedsalam Magomedov, gave him 100 per cent control of Anzhi in exchange for a truck load of cash not only to spend on the squad and a new 40,000-seater stadium, but the region as a whole.

Plenty to cheer: The Anzhi fans will soon have a 40,000 stadium in which to watch their side

Plenty to cheer: The Anzhi fans will soon have a 40,000 stadium in which to watch their side

Kerimov, who is reportedly worth $8bn, has so far pledged $200m for infrastructure projects which will start to regenerate a turbulent region.

In the nineties, Chechen separatists led armed operations in Dagestan on a number of occasions, taking hostages in hospitals in Dagestani towns and killing scores of people.

In 1999, an Islamic body called on Muslims in Dagestan and neighbouring Chechnya to take up arms against the Russian military. There were two weeks of bloody clashes and Russia has maintained its presence there ever since.

Periodically, insurgents take on the military presence. Ten died in Makhachkala in a 2005 bombing and a policeman was killed and 60 wounded when a bomb went off outside Anzhi’s stadium in September 2010.

Bright future: Hiddink and Carlos are determined to take points from Liverpool to maintain their good start to the season

Bright future: Hiddink and Carlos are determined to take points from Liverpool to maintain their good start to the season

So a history of friction between Moscow and this southern province has been added to by Anzhi’s ascent. When they used the Lokomotiv Stadium for their Europa League qualifier with AZ Alkmaar in August, supporters of the Moscow clubs united to hurl nationalist abuse at the Anzhi players.

Zhirkov was also signalled out for abuse by Russian fans when he played for the national side in the same stadium. The locals believe he’s wasting his time down in Dagestan.

‘We’re unpopular because people can’t understand how a club that won the second division [three years ago] are now title contenders,’ adds Samba.

But for Samba and his teammates, unpopularity is a small price to pay for being part of the Revolution.

Tour de France 2013: Bradley Wiggins left with a mountain to climb

Wiggins left with a mountain to climb with Tour to unveil high-altitude route for centenary

|

UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 23 October 2012

With the credibility of cycling now in tatters, this year’s Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins could be forgiven if he decides not to defend the yellow jersey.

And when the mountainous route of next year’s race is unveiled in Paris, he may not want to anyway.

Wiggins won the 2012 race over a terrain that suited his time-trialling pre-eminence and limited his exposure to the high-altitude finishes that trouble him.

For next year’s 100th Tour, the organisers have devised a course which offers little respite from mountains.

Tall order: The 2013 Tour does not suit Bradley Wiggins

Tall order: The 2013 Tour does not suit Bradley Wiggins

The legendary peaks of Mont Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez will feature in a handful of summit finishes which mark the 2013 Tour as a race for climbers like Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck and Wiggins’s Sky team-mate Chris Froome.

Alpe d’Huez will be climbed twice on the same stage while the final stage on the Champs-Elysees in Paris will be held at night under floodlights.

While two individual time trials will entice Wiggins to compete, one of them will be over the hilly terrain of the Alpes-Maritimes, meaning that he may give serious thought to the advice of Shane Sutton, his mentor at Team Sky, to skip the Tour next year and concentrate instead on the Giro d’Italia in May and the Vuelta a Espana in September.

The unveiling of the route is supposed to be a celebration of the centenary Tour. Instead, Wiggins and race director Christian Prudhomme will be besieged by questions about Lance Armstrong, doping, cheating and cycling’s credibility.

Unwanted attention: Lance Armstrong's shadow looms large over the Tour

Unwanted attention: Lance Armstrong's shadow looms large over the Tour

The Tour is now a race without a recent past after Armstrong was stripped on Monday of his seven Tour triumphs beginning in 1999.

Add in the retrospective expunging of the names of Floyd Landis in 2006 and Contador in 2010 and the inevitable tarnishing of Contador’s wins in 2007 and 2009, and only Wiggins, Carlos Sastre in 2008 and Cadel Evans in 2011 can be considered clean winners in the past 14 Tours.

Even Armstrong is no longer publicly declaring himself a seven-time Tour champion after changing his Twitter profile to reflect being stripped of his Tour success by the International Cycling Union (UCI).

On Monday, Armstrong’s profile read: ‘Father of 5 amazing kids, 7-time Tour de France winner, full time cancer fighter, part time triathlete.’

/10/23/article-0-15A12BF0000005DC-272_468x312.jpg” width=”468″ height=”312″ alt=”Calls to resign: Pat McQuaid is under pressure” class=”blkBorder” />

Calls to resign: Pat McQuaid is under pressure

‘UCI clearly have to take the blinkers off, look at the past, examine people who are there, ask themselves the questions, “Are those same people still in the sport and can they proceed forward with those people remaining”’

Tyler Hamilton, a former US Postal team-mate of Armstrong retrospectively stripped of his 2004 Olympic time trial gold medal for doping, said: ‘Pat McQuaid’s comments expose the hypocrisy of his leadership. He has no place in cycling.’

Peter Scudamore: Kauto Star joins the pantheon of greats

The real Star of Christmas: Kauto joins the pantheon of greats

The great stand out from the merely very good in any sport – they don” t need experts to point out their extraordinary talent.

Watch your first match and you”d still probably be able to tell that Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney can do magical things with a football or that Kevin Pieterson can mix artistry with brutality when wielding a cricket bat.

I remember the great West Indian bowler Courtenay Walsh explaining why the late Malcolm Marshall was so revered.

Star of wonder: Paul Nicholls and Kauto Star return to a warm reception at Ditcheat

Star of wonder: Paul Nicholls and Kauto Star return to a warm reception at Ditcheat

It wasn”t because he could bamboozle a batsman on a wicket offering him help but because he could get wickets by using his skills on the most unresponsive of pitches.

In some ways, Kauto Star is the same. He is no one-trick pony. From two miles to three and a quarter miles, over the speed-biased flat terrain of Kempton, the stamina-sapping undulations of Cheltenham or the demanding fences at Sandown, he has delivered at the highest level.

It is that versatility that truly sets him apart.

Few horses can match him.

Desert Orchid was a similar athlete but did not master Cheltenham to the same extent as Kauto Star.

Something old, something new: Kauto Star clears the last with Gold Cup winner Long Run trailing

Something old, something new: Kauto Star clears the last with Gold Cup winner Long Run trailing

That”s why I rate Kauto marginally the better horse and after Boxing Day”s fifth King George victory I believe Kauto Star can justifiably talked off as one of the top three staying steeplechasers of all-time.

I have only read about Golden Miller but his achievement of winning five Cheltenham Gold Cups during the 1930s is incredible.

Forget trying to compare the raw ability of horses over different eras, that is never going to work because of advances in training techniques and the way the sport is conducted.

The best you can do on an objective basis is compare what the horses achieved in their careers and I marvel at what Golden Miller did in the Gold Cup and Grand National.

I was a child when Arkle burst on the scenes.

His rider Pat Taaffe was my godfather.

Starry-eyed: Ruby Walsh with Kauto Star after the gelding

Starry-eyed: Ruby Walsh with Kauto Star after the gelding”s fifth King George VI Chase victory

My memories of what many have only seen on flickering back and white pictures are of a horse whose mere name was synonymous with excellence.

Arkle, trained by Tom Dreaper is Ireland, was both a national hero and freak of nature.

He murdered the opposition and they had to change the rules to accommodate his outrageous talent.

I never thought I would argue that a horse had similar talent but I am prepared to with Kauto Star and that is a measure of the horse.

The range of his 40-race career swells our admiration but it has taken a final twist late for the wider racing and general public to appreciate the gelding bred in France but made in Britain.

Inspiring: Kauto Star is the best marketing tool racing could have

Inspiring: Kauto Star is the best marketing tool racing could have

It has been a slow-burn, maybe because he is not flamboyant, more ruthlessly and relentlessly efficient.

The British love an underdog and a comeback story and that is what they have got with Kauto Star this season.

Only last month he was been written off and pensioned of by some.

The ability to claw your way back to the top endears sportsmen and women to the public and horses are no different.

There is also a sense that we don”t like our stars too pure and Kauto Star has overcome hiccoughs through his life.

His jumping was not flawless in his early steeplechases and he became associated with last fence blunders at one stage.

But he has become slick and reliable. Kauto Star has conquered jump racing. He is back as king.

But he has done more than that. He has pushed the sport to a wider audience.

His Gold Cup clash with young rival Long Run, the horse who took his King George and Gold Cup titles last season, at Cheltenham in March will inevitably be box office gold, publicity for jump racing no amount of PR work could buy.

It will billed as The Decider with the score standing at 2-2.

To win the race again when 12-years-old will add another accolade. No horse has won the Gold Cup when that old since What A Myth in 1969 When he finally retires, Kauto Star”s name will rank alongside the greats that non-racing people know.

Horses like Arkle, Seabiscuit and Red Rum. And that is probably his greatest achievement.

GREAT NAMES AND GREAT MEMORIES
OF THE WONDER HORSES

Eight-time champion jockey Peter Scudamore with his top 10 long-distance steeplechasers of all time.

1 Golden Miller
The most successful horse in Cheltenham Gold Cup history winning for five consecutive years (1932-36). Also the only horse to win the Gold Cup and Grand National in the same year (1934), setting a course record in the latter. Trained by Basil Briscoe and owned by eccentric Dorothy Paget, he won 29 of his 52 starts. In any era that record stands the test of time.

2 Arkle
The three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner (1964-6), who also won a Irish National (1964), King George (1965) and two Hennessy Gold Cups (1964-5). A national hero in Ireland whose performances prompted a change in the rules. So superior was he over his opponents that different handicaps had to be framed if he took part in races. His name will always be synonymous with excellence.

3 Kauto Star
What a record. Two Cheltenham Gold Cups (2007 & 09), five King Georges (2006-09 and 2011) and two Tingle Creek Chases (2005-06).The greatest staying chaser of the current era. The ability to compete over a variety of distances makes him so special as well as his durability. In a career stretching back to March 2003 , he has raced 40 times, completed the course 35 times and, on those runs, finished out of the first three only once. With almost 2.4million in prizemoney, the Paul Nicholls-trained chaser is Britain’s biggest earning jumper.

Blooming great: Desert Orchid

4 Desert Orchid
Landed the Cheltenham Gold Cup (1989), four King Georges (1986, 88-90), an Irish National (1990) and the Tingle Creek Chase (1988) for trainer David Elsworth. The flying grey (right) who captured public hearts. His versatility was arguably even greater than Kauto Star, winning from two miles to three miles five furlongs. He also produced some great handicap runs. But he could not master Cheltenham as well as Kauto Star even though he finally ended his Gold Cup hoodoo.

5 Best Mate
Henrietta Knight’s chaser deserves his place in this list by virtue of his three Cheltenham Gold Cups (2002-04), the first horse to achieve that feat since Arkle. Also landed the King George (2002). One of the best jumpers of a fence that I have ever seen. Smooth and economical. Just lacked the range of career of those horses rated higher on my list.

6 L’Escargot
Irish winner of two Cheltenham Gold Cups (1970-1) and a Grand National (1975) when ridden by Tommy Carberry. The Dan Moore-trained gelding is second only to Golden Miller in his performances in the Gold Cup and Grand National and a horse whose achievements are often overlooked.

7 Captain Christy
May be a surprise to some to be on this list but won the Cheltenham Gold Cup (1974), two King Georges (1974-75) plus an Irish Champion Hurdle (1973). An erratic but brilliant chaser whose 30-length demolition of Bula in the 1975 was close to steeplechasing perfection. He won his Gold Cup as a novice and, in raw ability terms, was one of the best I’ve ever seen.

8 Dawn Run
Still the only horse to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup (1986) and Champion Hurdle (1984). Deserves her place on this list for that Gold Cup effort alone when she orchestrated one of the most emotional afternoons I have ever experienced on a racecourse with her defeat of three-time King George winner Wayward Lad. She may not have been the best of jumpers but no horse had a bigger heart.

9 Burrough Hill Lad
The one horse in this list that I rode and winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup (1984), King George (1984), Welsh National (1983) and Hennessy Gold Cup (1984). He may not have had the electric pace of some other greats but the Jenny Pitman-trained gelding was streets ahead of his rivals when injury was not hampering his career. Defying 12 stone to win the Hennessy was a colossal weight carrying performance that sticks in the memory.

10 See More Business
Like Kauto Star, trained by Paul Nicholls but not a ‘sexy’ horse. Still managed to win a Cheltenham Gold Cup (1999) and two King Georges (1997 & 99). Won 18 of his 36 starts and was still competing at the top level at 13 years of age. His record might have looked even better had he not been carried out in the 1998 Gold Cup.