FIFA President Gianni Infantino has commended Russia on a smoothly run tournament and the absence of violent or racist incidents during the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Sunday’s Confed Cup final will see Germany take on Chile at St. Petersburg Stadium in the climax of the first ever Confed Cup to be held in Russia.
In a press conference held at the stadium wrapping up the tournament, Infantino said there had been no serious incidents at the competition, which dispelled any doubts about Russia’s ability to organize and hold a major football tournament.
“Spasibo (Thank you), dobro pozhalovat (welcome). This Confederations Cup here in Russia in the four venues of Kazan, St. Petersburg, Sochi has been a great success, from many points of view,” said Infantino, practicing his Russian.
“[Before the tournament], we heard about a lot of problems: that no one would care, that the teams don’t want to come, they don’t want to play. We heard about violence, hooligans, incidents, racism – we had nothing, we had no incidents, everything ran smoothly.
“We heard about the infrastructure, that it is not ready, not working – the transport works, there is free transport between cities. This doesn’t happen in many other countries where events are organized, but it happened here.”
Questions had been raised in the Western media regarding Russia’s readiness to hold a major football event.
The BBC produced an entire supposed documentary, Russia’s Hooligan Army, dedicated to raising concerns about fan violence in Russia.
Infantino paid tribute to the altogether different atmosphere experienced during the tournament, and expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of seeing the same welcome at the World Cup in Russia in a year’s time.
“If this is what a problematic tournament looks like, then I hope there are many problematic tournaments, because it went very well. We can expect same warm welcome next year. This is what it is about - enjoying football,” Infantino said.
“Look at all the volunteers, the smile they have the willingness to help, this is the face of Russia. We had 6,000 volunteers from 78 different countries, this shows the interest and enthusiasm in the country for football and for the Confederations Cup,” he added.