Russia World Cup 2018: Another score for powerful Putin?
Russia's sports minister likened the geopolitical impact of Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.
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For Russians, who love soccer, it looks like much more than a smart marketing decision by FIFA, which aims to expand beyond its traditional turf. Many immediately saw it as yet another indication that their former communist country has come in from the cold and finally gained acceptance as an important member of the European community.
"It is a huge victory for Russia and a big event for our soccer," says Vladimir Konstantinov, soccer expert with the popular Moscow daily Sport Express. "I hope in eight years' time we'll have a revolutionary new infrastructure for soccer, which we do not have now. This will give an impulse to the economic development of the country, development of transport, service. I have been to several soccer championships and it was always a colossal holiday for the people."
Russia's sports minister likened the geopolitical impact of the win – which saw Russia defeat competition from Britain, Spain, and the Netherlands – to a reenactment of the tearing down of the Iron Curtain.
"Twenty-one years ago the Berlin Wall was broken," declared a triumphant Vitaly Mutko after the announcement. "Today we can break another symbolic wall and open a new era in football together ... Russia represents new horizons for FIFA, millions of new hearts and minds and a great legacy after the World Cup, great new stadiums, and millions of boys and girls embracing the game."
President Dmitry Medvedev tweeted his joy: "Hurrah! Victory! We’re going to host the 2018 World Cup! Now we need to get properly ready to stage the tournament and, of course, to perform honorably," he said on his official Twitter page.