Cameroon football star Samuel Eto'o admitted to being "pleasantly surprised" by the huge welcome he was given in Makhachkala a day ahead of making his debut for big-spending Russian Premier League club Anzhi.
Former four-time African footballer of the year Eto'o signed a three-year multi-million euro deal with the ambitious club from war-torn Dagestan after being lured from Italian giants Inter Milan last month.
Around 5000 people turned up to get a glimpse of Eto'o.
"I left Cameroon with a unique dream: to become a footballer. The only thing that concerns me is being happy wherever I am, and with this kind of welcome how could I not be happy?,” he said.
The African was among those who respected a minute's silence to the victims of the tragedy.
Thanks to a deal which will see him earn 20.5 million euros a year Eto'o, 30, is set to become the best paid footballer in the world.
Eto'o was tempted to Russia by the club's new billionaire owner Suleiman Kerimov — an oil and metals magnate whose wealth has already brought the Russian left winger Yuri Zhirkov from Chelsea and the veteran Brazilian Roberto Carlos.
The club's recent lavish spending practices stand out in what is one of Russia's most impoverished and violent regions.