'Russia 2018 has set the bar very high and things surprised me,' 2026 World Cup organizer tells RT

14 Jul, 2018 14:42
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Victor Montagliani, who oversees North American football, is one of the faces of new FIFA - he helped to clean up corruption in his region, and is a key man in the successful 2026 bid. He talks to RT about lessons of Russia 2018.

"The organization has been top shelf, they've set the bar pretty high for future hosts," the head of CONCACAF and FIFA vice president told RT hosts at their rooftop Moscow studio. "Gianni Infantino [head of FIFA] has called it the best World Cup ever, and I would find it pretty hard to argue with that."

Montagliani, a Canadian, who led his country's football federation until 2017, had visited Moscow several times before, but admitted that like many of his countrymen, his understanding of Russians had been piecemeal, shaped by images of Russian hockey players in the NHL and other celebrities.

"What has surprised me is the tremendous service and the hospitality, and the warmth of the people. I did expect coldness, but I was neutral. The people have been fantastic, jumping on this opportunity," he said.

Calling the month-long tournament a remarkable personal experience ("trying horsemeat in Kazan was fantastic") Montagliani will wait until the World Cup euphoria to subside, before discussing lessons from the tournament with his Russian colleagues.

The joint US-Canada-Mexico tournament in 2026 will face many of the same issues that were discussed before Russia 2018 - huge distances, multiplied by the fact that 48 teams will be participating instead of 32.

READ MORE: ‘Croatia don’t make noise, look at what England did’ – Davor Suker on World Cup war of words (VIDEO)

Montagliani believes that the logistics will be solved, but there is one thing he can only hope to match from Russia - the performance of one particular home team to bring the tournament alive, and leave a lasting legacy in for a team that has only qualified for the World Cup once, in 1986. 

"Canada is a great country, but from a footballing standpoint we are not as rich as other countries. Yes the infrastructure and all that is important, but this is about allowing the sport of football to really grow. We want the tournament to catch the DNA of Canadians," said Montagliani.