Last month, Samuel Eto'o did something very curious and very venal and signed with Anzhi, an obscure team in Russia owned by a rich oil man. Eto'o became the highest paid soccer player in the world ($30 million over three years). But he also has to lace up his boots for Anzhi, which plays in a city called Makhachkala, which sounds not unlike the thing someone roars at you before he hacks you to bits with a machete. Makhachkala is in a place called Dagestan. It is not a vacation destination. According to the New York Times, the area is too dangerous for Eto'o or any of his teammates to live in. They all reside several hundred miles away in Moscow and fly to Makhachkala for home games. More:
It was not clear how much Mr. Eto'o knew about Dagestan, a mountainous region on the western shore of the Caspian Sea that has surpassed Chechnya as the most violent republic in the North Caucasus.
Dagestan's violence grows from a seemingly intractable knot of clan and business rivalries, religion, separatism, crime and extortion, feuds, and vendettas whose roots run deep into its region's history.
Every year, according to reports, 100 police officers are killed here.
On the night before Mr. Eto'o's arrival, two gun battles were reported in Dagestan, killing five people.
The NYT also quoted a local, who even while celebrating the arrival of one of the world's great strikers, sounded nothing short of terrifying:
"Now he's ours, he's a Dagestani," said Magomed Dosanov, 22, a professional boxer as he waited outside the stadium to see Mr. Eto'o. "Soon we'll have everything. It all starts with soccer."