Putin takes centre stage at FIFA Congress to welcome football world to Russia

By Andrew Warshaw in Moscow

June 13 – He stayed away in 2010 when Russia won the vote as a sign of respect for FIFA, flying into Zurich only after the result became public.

But he’s waited eight years and this was president Vladmir Putin’s moment as he strolled confidently into the midst of the FIFA Congress on the eve of the World Cup to thank everyone involved.

Putin hailed the World Cup as “one of the most significant events in world sport” in a welcoming address to delegates.

Neither doping scandals nor Russia’s various military interventions could deter Putin as he milked his brief appearance.

“This is an opportunity to thank you and all your colleagues for your assistance during the seven years in which Russa has been preparing for one of the most significant events in world sports,” he said.

“We have done everything in our power for this major football tournament to be a top-notch event for a player or fan or TV fan. Special thanks are due to (FIFA) president (Gianni) Infantino and his commitment to sports principles and justice his always-positive sentiment towards our country,

“We know that president Infantino took the helm of FIFA in difficult times and he has been our front man for many generations of our fans who dreamed that our country would one day welcome the best teams in the world.”

Putin concluded: “Our goal is for all our guests – football stars or regular fan – to feel the hospitality and welcoming nature of our nation, to understand our unique culture and unique nature and for the fans to want to come back.”

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