By Olawale Alabi
Moscow – FIFA President Gianni Infantino says the 2018 FIFA World Cup has gone well beyond all expectations and the football world will be by Russia’s side to ensure lasting legacies.
Infantino said on Friday in Moscow that Russia 2018 has been the best World Cup so far and it has only confirmed his belief and that of FIFA.
“It’s been a great adventure here in Russia and all of us, both here and outside Russia, have enjoyed it. Particularly, a lot of pre-conceived opinions have changed.
“In my opinion and that of those around me and those I have come across, this is the best World Cup so far,’’ he said.
The FIFA president said the event had been well organised beyond all expectations, and this had gone on to change the world’s perception of Russia.
“We have seen that Russia has changed from what we all believed. The World Cup has shown a real football country. Football has now become part of Russia’s DNA.
“You can see it in the massive infrastructure put in place, the stadiums built, the beautiful cities and the efficient workforce.
“People have discovered a beautiful country, which has welcomed people of all nationalities, whose people have been eager to help, and which is rich in culture and history.
“The legacies of all this will no doubt help put FIFA on the top in football, and we in FIFA will be there by Russia’s side to ensure football continues to live in this country,’’ he said.
Infantino went on to praise the volunteers and other members of the competition’s workforce, saying they provided the soul for the event.
“There are more than 100,000 people who have been involved in one capacity or the other. They are, with their smiles, the heart and soul of this very successful event.
“It has been the best ever, especially because of the volunteers, and FIFA is grateful to all, particularly the Russian government and people of Russia, for proving us right,’’ he said.
The FIFA president also said apart from the organisation of the event, Russia 2018 has broken some barriers and would be making the job of Qatar, the next hosts, harder.
“Here we have seen stadiums being filled up at the rate of 98 per cent and more than one million spectators traveling from abroad.
“With over 3 billion viewers on television, 11 billion views on social media and seven million visitors to the Fan Fests, I think we have gone beyond expectations.
“Moreover, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was a success, the anti-doping programme was with unprecedented number of tests and we had negative results.
“Our anti-discrimination campaign is on in a new way, and only one game here ended goalless. Many games ended with a lot of emotions.
“There was a tremendous high level of success in the organisation, infrastructure, security, hotels provision and transportation.
“The level of execution and delivery was impeccable, in spite of all we were told before,’’ he said.
On the 2022 edition of the World Cup in Qatar, Infantino said it was still early to make conclusions on the preparations.
“We are always having dialogue, and we will continue with that. But things are going on well as expected,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 2018 edition of the FIFA World Cup will come to an end on Sunday in Moscow with France taking on Croatia.