Russian President Vladimir Putin has handed over the World Cup host mantle to Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the head of the state that will stage the next global football tournament in four years.
In an official ceremony at the Kremlin, Putin handed a symbolic World Cup ball to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who then passed it to Sheikh Tamim.
“Dear friends, we have a pleasant occasion today,” Putin said. “Russia is passing the World Cup hosting rights to Qatar. The World Cup in Russia will soon come to an end, and we are proud of what we have done for all the football supporters and fans.
“The entire country took joy in being able to welcome football fans from all over the world. I’m sure that our friends from Qatar will be able to organize the tournament at the same highest level. And, of course, we are ready to share our experience with Qatar regarding the preparation of the World Cup. We will do everything to make football continue its humanist mission of uniting people,” he concluded.
The official ceremony marked the end of Russia’s role as 2018 World Cup host nation, and saw Infantino praising the country for staging a great football festival, which he had earlier hailed as “the best ever.”
“Today I’m a happy man,” said Infantino, who welcomed guests at the ceremony in Arabic, Russian and English. “These are the words [of welcome] that have followed us in the last months, and which will follow us in the next four years. It’s so important that we can be here today in the iconic place of the Kremlin to pass the World Cup hosting rights from the organizer of the 2018 World Cup to the organizer of the 2022 World Cup.
“This is football, this is passion, this is emotion, this is love, family and unity. These sentiments which we have felt in Russia will be transferred to Qatar. We fell in love with Russia and I’m sure that in four years from now we will fall in love with Qatar,” he added.
Sheikh Tamim thanked Putin for the warm welcome and support that has been extended to members of the Qatar Local Organizing Committee, who are currently visiting Russia to garner experience of hosting the World Cup.
“Mr President, I would like to thank you and the people of Russia for organizing the World Cup. I would like to congratulate you for organizing the World Cup at the highest level, and I hope that we will do the same in our country. I would like to express gratitude to our friends from the Local Organizing Committee who met our delegation from Qatar. We expect to continue this cooperation in preparing for the 2022 World Cup,” he said.
“Hosting the World Cup is an important event for us, I remember how in 2010 we got the right to host it, and it was a great day for the country. We only hope that our nation will repeat the success of the Russian team or even exceed it,” Sheikh Tamim concluded.
Putin, Infantino and Sheikh Tamim will attend the World Cup final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, where France and Croatia will fight for the coveted trophy.
In addition to football-related matters, Putin and Sheikh Tamim are also set to discuss political issues in a separate meeting, including the situation in the Middle East.