—- Legendary Soviet footballer and Olympic gold medallist Nikita Simonyan has been named as the latest 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ ambassador. The vice president of the Russian Football Union received the honour during a special ceremony at the RFU headquarters on 12 October 2016 – the same day as he was celebrating his 90thbirthday.“It’s a great honour for me to receive the status of World Cup 2018 Ambassador. Undoubtedly, the organization of the tournament will be of the highest level. I mean infrastructure, hotels, airports, roads and so on. I’m hoping for a good performance from our team and want to see them play with fierce passion in front of the home fans. And, of course, personally, I’m dreaming of visiting Russia’s stadiums to enjoy the best football masters!,” said Nikita Simonyan.

“Nikita Simonyan is a living legend who embodies our footballing history. His name is associated with many of our national team’s finest moments. Back in 1958, as team captain, he led the USSR in its maiden appearance at a FIFA World Cup, in Sweden, before passing on his experience to young players as a coach. We were, therefore, greatly honoured when Nikita Simonyan agreed to become an ambassador of the upcoming World Cup in Russia, which will no doubt become a bright, new chapter in the history of the national sport,” said the CEO of the Russia 2018 Local Organizing Committee Alexey Sorokin.

Nikita Simonyan holds a unique place in the history of national football and Spartak Moscow. He was part of the USSR squad that won the gold medal at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. Two years later he captained the national team during the country’s first World Cup in Sweden in 1958. On the domestic scene, Simonyan won four national championships (1952, 1953, 1956 and 1958), two Soviet Cups (1950 and 1958) and remains the Red-Whites’ record goalscorer. Thanks to his sublime technique and eye for goal, Simonyan picked up the award for top scorer in the Soviet Union three times (1949, 1950 and 1953). The former Spartak forward scored 186 goals throughout his career, which puts him in the top five of Soviet and Russian strikers.

Simonyan retired from the game at the age of 33, declaring that he wanted to go out at the top, but went on to have a successful coaching career. He had two stints in charge of Spartak in the 1960s and early 1970s, winning the Soviet Top League twice and the domestic cup competition three times. He then led FC Ararat Yerevan to a league-and-cup double during his first spell as coach in 1973/74. Simonyan also managed the USSR national team and Chornomorets Odessa before returning to Ararat in 1984/85.

Simonyan thus becomes the fourth FIFA World Cup ambassador and joins goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, former Russia captain Aleksei Smertin and distinguished pianist Denis Matsuev.

2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Local Organising Committee Media Office

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