KEIR RADNEDGE in RIO DE JANEIRO: Russia may have flown home from Brazil a fortnight ago but President Vladimir Putin was in Maracana for the Final to claim his country’s own World Cup win.
On December 2, 2010, the executive committee of world federation FIFA awarded Russia host rights to the 2018 finals, a fact almost forgotten among the controversy surrounding Qatar’s 2022 award half an hour later. Hence Putin flew in to Rio de Janeiro for a courtesy call on President Dilma Rousseff but first to take over the World Cup.
A three-handed ceremony took place within Maracana. FIFA president Sepp Blatter presented a signed certificate to mark the hand-over from Brazil to Russia while Rousseff and Putin were presented with signed official match balls.
Blatter said: “FIFA’s World Cup in Brazil had a very special message to give – a message of togetherness and of connecting people, a message of peace and of anti-discrimination. We have enjoyed a successful World Cup and we will have a legacy in this country.
“At the same time there is a responsibility for the next host country and I’m confident that Russia will take on this responsibility and also give us a wonderful World Cup to remember in 2018.”
Rousseff added: “Brazil is very proud for once again having staged the biggest football celebration in the world. In the last 30 days the world has been connected to Brazil, celebrating goals with a lot of emotion in the 12 host cities and making this the World Cup of World Cups.
“I am sure that everyone who came to Brazil, like tourists and delegations, will take back memories of our hospitality and joy, and we Brazilians also have unforgettable memories. I wish the Russian people great success in the organisation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.”.
Putin responded by congratulating the Brazilians on their hosting success. He added: “Football helps to solve social problems. Our task is to create the best possible conditions for the coaches, players, experts and fans. We will do all we can to organise the event on the highest level.”
The Russian President heads the Russia 2018 organising committee council.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, a FIFA exco member, said Putin’s visit was also “to reassure the football family that the Russian government fulfils its obligations . . . We know how difficult it is to organise such events.”
Mutko had been impressed by the “exhilarating” manner in which Brazil had hosted the finals with a “unique atmosphere in and around the stadia.”
But Russia had its own its strengths and ambitions.
He said: “Russia is a traditional football country and we have resolved to stage the event at the highest level possible. We will do everything to organise a comparable event in Russia so we can show our country in all its facets.
“The concept of the 2018 World Cup is that our visitors will have an opportunity to visit the various corners of Russia which is why we are doing whatever we can to create the infrastructure so the World Cup will create a legacy for the future.”
The first major milestone event for Russia will be the preliminary draw next July in St Petersburg.