Professional football returns to Chechnya
© Foto-net

The first football league match in 14 years was to be played in the war-ravaged Russian province of Chechnya on Friday, in a stadium where 32 people were killed in a 2004 bomb blast.

The Premier League game between the home team Terek Grozny and Samara FC was to kick off at 16:00 GMT, with local administrative chief Ramzan Kadyrov in attendance.

In 2004 a bomb blast in the stadium killed Kadyrov's father Akhmad, who was then the provincial head.

Up until now Terek Grozny has been playing only outside its homeland as the southern Russian province was considered too dangerous due to fighting between Russian troops and separatists.

There has been no professional football played in Chechnya since 1994 and Friday's game in the newly-refurbished stadium was seen as a signal that reconstruction efforts by the younger Kadyrov were paying off.

There was huge public excitement ahead of the game. The 10,000 tickets, given out for free by the authorities, were snapped up long ago.

"It's a great event for the republic and for our people. For me, this is part of history. I'll tell my grandchildren I was at this match," said Viskhan Abubokarov, a 20-year-old student at Chechnya State University.

"It shows that peaceful life has returned here. The war is over," he said.

The game holds particular significance for Kadyrov, whose father was blown up along with 31 other people at a ceremony in the stadium in May 2004 in an attack claimed by rebels.

"The Chechen republic is just a region of Russia like any other and people live here in peace like in any other region of the country," Kadyrov said ahead of the game, adding that there were no security threats to the game.

Russian television said the game would be guarded by 1,000 police officers.