Unconfined joy for Russia
© AFP

Excitement was evident on the faces of those both in Zurich and at home after yesterday’s announcement that the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ will take place in Russia, following a secret ballot of the 22 members of the FIFA Executive Committee.

The official announcement confirming Russia's victory was made at 18:37 Moscow time by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. “I congratulate the Football Union of Russia,” said Blatter. “I am confident that Russia will do a very fine job of organising the World Cup. This is a huge country, one which is worthy of staging such a major event.”

This joyous news was met with unrestrained glee and relief by everyone who had travelled to Zurich to support the Russian bid, including Arsenal midfielder Andrey Arshavin, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, pole vault world-record holder Yelena Isinbayeva and supermodel Natalia Vodianova.

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin flew to Zurich straight after the final vote had been announced in order to participate in the victory celebrations. “My confidence was based on the fact that Russia is a worthy stage for the World Cup,” explained the Russian PM, pledging that the 2018 tournament would be “staged to the highest possible standards”.

Also quick to react to the news was the President of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, who gave a statement via Twitter: “We got it! Russia will host the 2018 FIFA World Cup! Now we need to prepare for it. And I hope our team will do well too.”

Meanwhile, the President of the Football Union of Russia, Sergei Fursenko gave a brief outline of Russia's plans for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. “From the outset we were confident of victory, and as you can see, we were right,” he said. “Nobody can stop us from achieving our goals for 2018. We now need to focus on the tasks ahead: the construction of 16 new stadiums and 72 training centres. Today, this has suddenly become a reality. I would therefore like to congratulate everyone – this is a victory for all of us.”

The head coach of the Russian national team, Dick Advocaat, gave his congratulations to the country's football fans. “This is a magnificent result!” said the 63-year-old Dutchman. “My joy at Russia's victory has more than compensated for any disappointment at my native Netherlands not winning the vote.

“The key thing is not to regard eight years as being a long way off. It's important to start the building work and the preparations now. New stadiums, infrastructure, and transport links – all of this will require a huge amount of work. I'm pleased because it won't just be the national team that benefits, but the clubs too. We all share the same interests in this respect. Please accept my congratulations. We have won!”

In Moscow, however, the news of the victory was not met with such a passionate reaction, mainly because large swathes of the population were travelling back from work at the time of the announcement and were simply focusing on getting out of the extreme cold!

Temperatures in the Russian capital are currently sub-zero, reaching as low as -11 degrees Celsius during the day. However, all of the country's news agencies, web portals, TV channels and radio stations were quick to report the momentous news.

What is more, it is fair to say that the mood in the country prior to the vote had not been overly confident, with most Russians rating their chances of victory as only 50/50. However, the majority of the population were fully behind the idea of hosting the FIFA World Cup, with an opinion poll discovering that 78 per cent of the country’s fans wanted to see a successful Russian bid.

That majority’s surprise wish was granted on Thursday in Zurich, when Russia was invited to host the world's biggest football tournament for the very first time. The landmark announcement also marks a first for Eastern Europe as a whole, and is sure to trigger further celebrations across the region.