Russian President Vladimir Putin said ahead of the World Cup final match on Sunday that he was proud of how Russia had hosted football's most prestigious tournament.
“We are proud of what we have been able to do for fans of this wonderful sport,” Putin said during a meeting in the Kremlin with the Amir of Qatar, whose country will host the next World Cup, in 2022.
“We, the whole country, have taking great pleasure in interacting with football, the football world and the fans who came to us from all over the world,” Putin said, according to an official transcript.
Russia is ready to share its experience with Qatar as that country prepares to host the next championship, Putin told Qatar's Amir His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani at the
meeting, which was attended by Gianni Infantino, the chief of football’s governing body, FIFA.
Putin acknowledged the Russian national team's surprising success at this year's World Cup and expressed hope that it will do even better next time.
Ahead of the tournament Putin had told the media that he had modest hopes for the national team, with the main goal for the World Cup being to host it well.
Infantino in recent days described this year’s World Cup as the “best ever”, with high attendance at events, great organisation and minimal incident.
On Saturday night, Putin thanked Infantino personally, on stage at Moscow’s prestigious Bolshoi Theatre, for trusting the country to host a great World Cup.
Putin expressed thanks specifically for “your faith in Russia as a country that keeps its word, respects its partners and upholds the magnificent spirit and principles of sport.”
Russia’s leadership has revelled in the tournament as an opportunity to welcome foreigners and change negative perceptions of the country.
“We are happy that our guests were able to see everything with their own eyes, destroying myths and prejudices,” Putin told reporters at the Bolshoi Theatre, according to the Russia-focused Interfax news agency.
In his televised speech, Putin said that Russia was considering relaxing its visa regime for foreign fans
who would like to return as tourists.
“We are happy that our guests were able to see everything with their own eyes, destroying myths and prejudices,” Putin said on stage, alongside Infantino.
As the tournament draws to a close, Putin has had a slew of diplomatic meetings with several heads of state visiting for the championship.
On Sunday, Putin was expected to speak with the heads of state of both countries involved in the final: France’s Emmanuel Macron and Croatia’s Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.
On Saturday, Putin met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, as Russia cultivates
|a mediator role between Palestinians and Israelis.