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Russia’s Putin Meets With FIFA President Gianni Infantino

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin met Wednesday with FIFA President Gianni Infantino, in which the Russia leader not only stressed how the nation is preparing for the upcoming World Cup, but how he sees the hosting of the world championship as an avenue to build relations with the countries participating in this major event.

Following is the readout of the meeting between Putin and Infantino, as released by the Kremlin.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President: My warm and personal congratulations to you on your election as FIFA President. We followed closely the events surrounding your organisation. I am not going to comment on anything, I will only mention that, as far as I know, you were on the FIFA reform Committee.

Of course, your expertise as a lawyer, who immediately after graduation for many years focused on legal support for international football organisations — this knowledge and expertise will definitely be of use.

I hope that by now you already have at least a general idea of how Russia is preparing for the upcoming World Cup. We fought for the right to host this major event in an open and honest manner, driven by the desire to promote the wonderful ideas behind football, probably, the world’s most popular sport. We hope the championship that we are preparing will be held at the highest level.

You know that we have good, if not extensive, experience in holding major international competitions. We will use all of it, and we look forward to having your support to promote the popularity of football in the post-Soviet space — across Eastern Europe as a minimum, and in a broader sense, in the region where this country is located — the vast region of Eurasia.

For us, holding and preparing for the World Cup also has an internal dimension. We hope to use preparations for and the hosting of the world championship as an avenue to build relations with the countries participating in this major event.

We are confident that football will create more bridges for cooperation, and we are going to do our best to advance your ideas and FIFA ideas to promote this wonderful sport.

Thank you.

Gianni Infantino: Thank you very much. I have to apologise first of all, because I don’t speak Russian. Ya ne govoryu po-russki. Yet. But after two days here in Moscow, I’ve already learned to say a couple of things. Ya lyublyu futbol.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, to my knowledge, you speak five languages. Learning Russian should not be a problem for you.

Gianni Infantino:
I will, I will. And I feel at home. I have seen the progress, which is made in terms of preparation for the World Cup. I visited Luzhniki Stadium yesterday, Spartak today, I went to the Upper House, the Senate, this morning as well. I went to the Russian Football Union, to the local organising committee.

I have been in football now for many years. And even if I’ve not organised a World Cup, I have organised four European Championships, so I know what is behind, I know the work that it takes. And what I’ve seen here makes me feel very optimistic, very confident. The work, which is carried out by Minister Mutko, the work, which is carried out by the Russian Government is absolutely fantastic.

But there is still some work to do. Rabota? And football is a team sport. We are a team. We are a team that will organise the greatest event in the history of football. The best World Cup ever, in a fantastic country like Russia. The world will look at Russia, and we will spend a fantastic summer in 2018 with the World Cup, and in 2017 with the Confederations Cup. And we will work hard together to make sure everything will happen in a fantastic way.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin:
Mr President, I take this opportunity to invite you to two events. First, the launch of the World Cup volunteer programme, which will be held in late May. If you cannot make it in May, please come for the Confederations Cup draw in Kazan in late November.

Gianni Infantino: I wanted to invite you to join me for these events. It’s a joke, of course I’ll come, and with great, great pleasure.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: I take it as a yes.

Gianni Infantino: Definitely. They are two important events, especially the volunteer events. We need the population of Russia to be fully behind this event.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.

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