By Penza News
Russia held the best World Cup in soccer history. This opinion was expressed by the president of the International Football Federation (FIFA) Gianni Infantino during a press conference at the Luzhniki Stadium on July 13.
“This was fantastic, incredible, unbelievable World Cup. Since a couple of years I was saying this would be the best World Cup ever. Today I can say it with more conviction because I lived it and you lived it. It is the best World Cup ever. And we should say thanks to Russia. Thank you Russia,” FIFA President said.
He also expressed confidence that the legacy of the championship will contribute to the further development of football in Russia.
“This World Cup has changed Russia that has become a real football country. Football is now part of Russia’s DNA. This is thanks to the performance of Russian national team, of course; but also thanks to all the work that has been done – everything is extremely beautiful. The legacy of this World Cup will put Russia on the top of the countries in terms of football,” Gianni Infantino noted.
According to him, the event has also changed the perception of Russia.
“Around a million of people have come to Russia – not only Moscow, not only St. Petersburg or Kazan but in all the host cities – and everyone has discovered a beautiful and welcoming country. This has been a great adventure for hundreds of thousands of people who came and enjoyed the welcoming and warm atmosphere,” FIFA President stressed.
In turn, President of Russia Vladimir Putin expressed gratitude to all who organized this grand international event and thanked the foreign fans who visited Russia.
“Of course, we must also our guests – foreign tourists and fans. I would like to point out that attempts were made to intimidate us as well: some said the British fans are hooligans, and so on. But everyone behaved wonderfully, demonstrating the best qualities of sports enthusiasts and football fans. They have shown that sports and football do not disunite people or lead to quarrels and fights, but that it can bring people together on the basis of shared principles and values – cultural and humanitarian values. Many foreigners have learned about our culture and our cities, and they have met our open-hearted people. And millions of people – not thousands but millions – have changed their views on Russia. It is an achievement, a big achievement,” the Russian leader said during his conversation with journalists after the 2018 World Cup final match.
American President Donald Trump also praised the organization of the World Cup.
“Congratulations to France, who played extraordinary soccer, on winning the 2018 World Cup. Additionally, congratulations to President Putin and Russia for putting on a truly great World Cup Tournament – one of the best ever,” the US president wrote on Twitter.
In addition, the efforts of Russia were appreciated by coaches and football players, who got the most comfortable conditions that enabled them to realize their full potential. So, the head coach of France Didier Deschamps admitted that it was a great pleasure for his team to play in Russia.
“I do not like to talk about success, but I have never seen a World Cup like this one. […] It was a wonderful World Cup; everything was fine organized, despite small difficulties. […] Russia has done everything to ensure that everything went well: the stadiums are filled, the atmosphere is super, safe, the work of the arbitrators is beautiful, all these is quite obvious. It is a great pleasure for us to be here in Russia,” Didier Deschamps stressed.
In turn, the president of the Croatian Football Union, Davor Suker also noted the high level of the World Cup organization.
“All the Croats who were lucky to attend the World Cup in Russia, from players, coaches, officials to guests and fans, have received immense pleasure from all aspects of the organization, directly or indirectly related to this most popular international sporting event. Logistics, transport, stadiums, hotels, roads, airports and many other facilities were of excellent quality. […] The atmosphere during the World Cup in Russia was more than perfect at beautiful and comfortable stadiums and outside them: always safe, but friendly, and we all felt completely at home with such a warm welcome,” Davor Suker said.
Commenting on the results of the World Cup Russia, Eric Zillmer, neuropsychologist and Athletic Director at Drexel University in Philadelphia, shared the opinion that the World Cup in Russia was the best one.
“I have been watching the World Cup since 1966 when England defeated Germany at the iconic Wembley stadium. The 2018 Russia World Cup, however, was clearly the best ever: state-of-the-art venues, capacity crowds, a refreshing brand of soccer, Cinderella stories, and exceptionally well organized; Bravo Russia!” the expert told PenzaNews and added that Russia has a long history of well-organized sporting events.
“The 2018 World Cup added to this history. Such a three week spectacle can only help in the perception of Russia as a travel destination and global power. I would argue that the shadow of the Cold War, however, still lingers and that while sports can be a catalyst for peace, only so much can be accomplished,” Eric Zillmer noted.
At the same time he stressed that prejudices about Russia that appeared in the Western media were absolutely unjustified.
“Of course it was not fair to judge Russia as an unsafe travel destination, when in fact tens of thousands of fans travelled from all over the world to the World Cup and enjoyed eyebrow-raising soccer contests and the Russian hospitality,” Athletic Director at Drexel University explained.
“The World Cup 2018 was an unprecedented and at times intoxicating melting pot of nations celebrating cultural diversity […]. It became a sociological laboratory of unmatched precedent. Russia should feel proud to have hosted this soccer and cultural festival,” Eric Zillmer added.
Meanwhile, Fernand Kartheiser, Luxembourg Parliament member for the Alternative Democratic Reform Party (ADR), also noted a high level of the championship held in Russia.
“The World Cup has been perfectly well organized and there have been no major incidents. It is my strong impression that this World Cup has helped changing the perception of Russia in the West. Contacts between the Russians and foreign visitors have been friendly. Russia deserves to be praised for this World Cup and congratulated for the excellent performance of its national football team,” the politician said.
In his opinion, sports have many times played an important role in diplomacy.
“The case of table tennis in the US-China relations is still well remembered as an example of ping-pong-diplomacy. Many anti-Russia or anti-Putin Western politicians and journalists tried to prevent the world cup in Russia, because they were afraid of the positive image that Russia might get from this event. Unfortunately for them, this is exactly what happened,” Fernand Kartheiser explained.
From his point of view, over the last years, many Western politicians and journalists have maneuvered themselves into a diplomatic dead-end.
“Their continuous attacks, ‘high probabilities’ and no other plausible explanation and so on, have made it almost impossible for them to speak rationally about and with Russia. […] There were many warnings about Russia, and if people chose not go to Russia for that reason, it is of course sad for them. It is certainly not fair to issue warnings without good reasons,” the politician said.
He also stressed that he welcomes “the courage of President Trump who met with President Putin despite strong opposition in the United States.”
“I also congratulate Italy on its opposition to sanctions. Many other European Nations have missed the opportunity over the last years to improve the relationship with Russia by interacting constructively,” Fernand Kartheiser said and added that the existing relations of these Western states with Russia is the result of their own diplomatic failure.
In turn, Patrick James, Director of Center for International Studies at University of Southern California, expressed the opinion that warnings of foreign media about potential threats that might be faced in Russia were fair.
“To be candid, Russian movement away from a Western style of government is pretty clear to see. […] However, my sense is that Russia was treated somewhat differently than China, which is a dictatorship but hosted an Olympics a decade ago that arguably did not attract as much of this kind of attention,” the analyst explained.
He also called weird the intervention from the punk-band Pussy Riot and added that it “caused mixed reactions.”
According to Patrick James, on the one hand, this situation could become a reminder of the existing problems related to the government’s policy; and on the other hand, such an event – no matter what the stated reason – tends to alienate those who are tuning in.
Speaking directly about the championship, the expert noted that it was successful.
“Some surprise teams, for example, Croatia, went pretty far into the competition. I also note the incredible number of games that went right down to the end. A positive aspect of the World Cup worth noting is the overall good sportsmanship, barring the semi-comical fake injuries,” the expert said and added that the teams demonstrated beautiful soccer having created an event that people from countries normally at odds with each other can sit back and enjoy together.
Meanwhile, Patrick Sensburg, German MP from the CDU/CSU fraction, said that the Football World Cup in Russia was a major event that has attracted worldwide attention.
“It has also drawn attention to the Russian culture and the people, besides from the sports event. The ´kokoshnik´ is now worldwide known. The World Cup has shown that our countries have a long tradition of good relations. We should improve them again,” the German politician noted.
According to him, many football fans took the World Cup as an occasion and travelled to Russia for the first time.
“Many of them perceived Russia as a very hospitable country; they received a very warm welcome, even if they did not speak a word of the Russian language. The balance of security and exuberance in the Russian cities has also created a very special atmosphere,” Patrick Sensburg added.
In his opinion, important sporting events, such as the World Cup, admit interaction and offer opportunities for further discussion.
“It has been an important element of cultural diplomacy for decades and therefore, the World Cup has contributed to extend international understanding. The good cooperation during the World Cup should now be transferred into the fields of politics. Therefore the excellent athletic performance of the football players and officials also might have a bridging effect into politics and economy,” German MP concluded.