FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter has made his first visit to Russia since the country was named as hosts of the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ on 2 December 2010. Blatter was accompanied on his three-day stay in St. Petersburg by Angel Maria Villar-Llona and Senes Erzik, who are FIFA and UEFA vice-presidents as well as members of FIFA’s Executive Committee.
During an official ceremony on Sunday 23 January in St. Petersburg which was attended by many media representatives, Blatter, together with Vitaly Mutko, Russia’s Minister of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy and Sergei Fursenko, the President of the Football Union of Russia, signed the Declaration of Appointment, formally confirming the status of Russia as the hosts of the 2018 FIFA World Cup™ and the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. Alexei Sorokin, CEO of Russia’s 2018 Bid Committee, acted as Master of Ceremonies.
During the ceremony, the FIFA President said: “Football is more than kicking a ball. Football has a unique socio-cultural dimension worldwide. Football connects people. Football has no borders. FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups™ to countries and regions which never had the chance to host FIFA’s flagship event so far goes exactly along with this philosophy. I am sure there will be a great cooperation between FIFA and Russia.”
Mutko responded in agreement: “Today’s ceremony marks the kick-off of our preparation work towards the organisation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup™. We did tremendous work during the bidding process because we wanted to host this great event so much. Therefore, we are very pleased and thankful that FIFA elected Russia. We will do our best to host the greatest-ever FIFA World Cup. We’re looking forward to welcoming people from around the world in our country.”
On the eve of the ceremony, the FIFA President met with Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who thanked FIFA on behalf of all football and sports fans of Russia. "We share the same vision as FIFA that football plays a big role in society,” said Mr. Putin. “We are hopeful that the FIFA World Cup will be very positive for our country. We will build not only stadiums but also a large transportation network. When it comes to the organisation of the event, we look forward to receiving the support of the FIFA experts.”
The FIFA President also held individual meetings with top representatives from the Football Associations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan during the 19th CIS and Baltic Cup – a competition involving the club champions of Russia, the CIS and the Baltic region which he has attended every edition since its inception.
“As the world governing body of football, FIFA has a mission to develop football internationally. To achieve this, it is crucial to establish and maintain a permanent dialogue with the member associations of FIFA. I feel committed and privileged to assume this responsibility,” commented the FIFA President, who also kicked-off a Russia FA-organised workshop about football development entitled: “Take the road of football” which gathered numerous associations, clubs and other football representatives from the region.
The FIFA delegation also attended the final of the 16-team tournament, which this year was contested by FK Inter Baku (Azerbaijan) and Shakhter Soligorsk (Belarus). After a 0-0 draw FK Inter Baku won a penalty shootout 6-5 to lift the trophy, with the FIFA President participating in the awards ceremony.