Football Festival Helped Improve Russia Image

Football Festival Helped Improve Russia ImageFootball Festival Helped Improve Russia Image

The World Cup helped changed people’s view of Russia, FIFA President Gianni Infantino told an audience at an event in Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre on Saturday, standing alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The tournament has transformed “the perception that the world has about Russia,” Infantino said, Reuters reported.

Putin told an audience of former soccer stars including Brazil’s Ronaldo and French Marcel Desailly as well as Russian government officials he was sad that the tournament was almost over but he also noted that it had helped improve the country’s image.

“We cannot but feel sad that this spectacular football festival, which had given us so many happy moments, vivid impressions and new friends, is almost over,” Putin said. “Myths and stereotypes have been dispelled.”

The month-long tournament has been held without major security incidents, while concerns about possible racist incidents and hooligan violence that were raised in the run-up have not been borne out.

Many fans from around the world have also spoken of a positive experience at the World Cup in Russia.

Putin said that Russia was eager to see World Cup fans return to the country after the tournament. Fans entered Russia without a visa, using a fan ID instead - a document mandatory to enter stadiums that proves its holder has been vetted and approved by the authorities. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, who oversees sport and culture, told Reuters this week that the country expected the World Cup to lead to a 15% increase in foreign tourism next year.

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