PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin of Russia on Wednesday, thanked FIFA president Gianni Infantino and the football community, for keeping politics out of sport, the day before the start of the soccer World Cup.
Putin said this while welcoming delegates from more than 200 countries at the FIFA Congress at Moscow’s Expocentre.
Putin also commended the organisers for the joint effort “as one big team” towards staging the 32-team event in 11 Russian cities until July 15.
Russia will host the tournament from June 14 to July 15 in 12 stadiums spread across cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.
“I wanted to underline FIFA’s commitment to the principle of sports without politics,” Putin said during a FIFA Congress in Moscow while standing next to the World Cup trophy.
“Our country is prepared to host the World Cup. All should feel the hospitality and the welcoming nature of our nation, with its unique culture and nature,’’ Putin said.
“The World Cup is of great significance for our country. Tomorrow this dream comes true.”
“Together we have done everything in our power to make the tournament a top-notch event, be it for a player, a fan, or a fan in front of the TV,” he said.
Putin named Infantino a “fighter” in difficult times for FIFA and praised his commitment.
The FIFA president, who had first walked off in the wrong direction to welcome Putin, who then appeared on the other end, returned the compliments.
“From the bottom of our hearts a big, big, big thank you to you Mr Putin for making us really feel part of the same team,” Infantino said.
He had told the congress earlier that he expected a great tournament from a great host, expressing gratitude to all sides involved in Russia “to celebrate the most beautiful event the world has ever seen.
“Russia has this myth of never having been conquered. As of tomorrow Russia will be conquered by football. From Luzhniki Stadium football will conquer the world,” Infantino said.