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FIFA President Gianni Infantino shared his impressions of the World Cup and his thoughts on the tournament's future.
GIANNY INFANTINO'S
RUSSIAN ODYSSEY
Not for a second. From the very first exchange of words with representatives from the Local Organising Committee, the federal government and the 11 host cities, it was very clear that Russia had a purpose and a plan — and that each of the different entities involved would work hand in hand with FIFA to ensure that the World Cup would be impeccable, down to the tiniest of details. This is exactly what happened: the best FIFA World Cup ever. It was no coincidence but the result of careful preparation, unwavering commitment and very hard work.
The FIFA President
and the President
of the Russian Federation
WERE QUICK TO BOND
You were elected FIFA President two and a half years before the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Did you have any doubts at that time that Russia would be ready for it?
A huge number of fans from around the world travelled to Russia. Do you think that the visa-free entry and free travel between host cities contributed to the influx of fans?
The world felt safe and welcome in Russia, and the Fan ID became a powerful symbol of that. Football fans are no fools: they know how to recognise a welcoming situation when they see one, and this is what this World Cup brought to bear. When you are at the stadium or in the streets and you meet people from other countries also wearing their team's colours, this creates a sense of comfort and community. Then you board a train that is filled with ticket holders and this spirit is enhanced even further. Russia did a fantastic job in setting up the stage that allowed for a magical month of football and celebration.
The level of football played at this World Cup was also quite remarkable, with only one goalless draw. What teams especially pleased you with their style of play?
Football is what makes a great World Cup. It is, after all, the reason why we are all here, together. If high-quality football is nowhere to be found, you will not have an unforgettable event. Russia 2018 was a magical convergence of these things: excellent football played on an impeccable stage with a joyful atmosphere.

What struck me the most was to see the variety of ways in which teams could be very competitive and play attractive football. The two finalists were a very good example. France's and Croatia's paths to reach the final were completely different. The French mixed stretches of breath-taking, fast-paced football with very clinical passages of play, while the Croatians had to rely on a lot of poise and resilience — but they were both fantastic and alluring in their own way.
How do you explain the popularity of the FIFA Fan Fests?
The FIFA Fan Fests have cemented their status as the best place in the world to watch a FIFA World Cup game other than the stadium itself. I guess everyone knows that: fans look forward to travelling to a FIFA World Cup also because of this experience. The 11 Fan Fests were the epicentres of the glorious atmosphere that conquered Russia for a month.
More than 30,000 young people took part in the World Cup as volunteers. Are you pleased with the way the programme worked in Russia?
I struggle to find words that represent just how thankful I am to the thousands of volunteers who participated in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They were the tournament's true heartbeat. The fact that thousands of football fans from all over the world felt welcomed was due in large measure to the volunteers. We owe a lot to them for their contribution to making the whole event an astounding success.

Also, I am sure that everyone who volunteered in Russia will treasure a lot of fantastic memories from the World Cup. It is the kind of experience that you cherish for life and that has the potential to leave a lasting, inspiring mark, particularly on the young people.
The FIFA President and the President of the Russian FederationWERE QUICK TO BOND
One of the milestone achievements of this World Cup was the implementation of VAR. Are you happy with it?
When it was all over,
Gianni Infantino could say
with satisfaction that
it had been
THE BEST
WORLD CUP
EVER
Like anyone who loves football and wants it to be as fair a game as possible, I am very happy. The FIFA World Cup would not have been the same without the assistance of technology. It would not have been as fair, and its results would have been different. And I do not say that only as FIFA President, but, more importantly, as a fan who has had his share of suffering in the stands.

The essence of VAR is to reduce the frequency of clear match-defining mistakes, and this is exactly what we witnessed in the 17 decisions overturned through video reviews during this World Cup. What VAR will not do, though, is eradicate mistakes; do away with human fallibility; remove subjectivity from refereeing decisions or keep football immune to controversy. And you know what? This is exactly how it should be.
How many years do you think should pass before Russia will have the opportunity to host the biggest football tournament of the planet again?
Hosting a FIFA World Cup is so fantastic that the moment it is finished you are thinking about enjoying it again, right? (laughs) Seriously, now it is the time for Russia to rejoice having hosted the best World Cup of all time and, more importantly, to reap the benefits of having done so. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for football — elite and grassroots, women's and men's — to take an immense step forward in the country, and I am sure this is what we will see. Russia has proved its value as a football country, and the FIFA World Cup will always be there at the top of the football world. One day these paths will certainly meet again.
Do you have a favourite city in Russia? Where you would like to come, not professionally, but, for example, on vacation?
When I started planning my 2018 FIFA World Cup, there was one thing I made very, very clear: I had to visit each of the 11 host cities at least once during the tournament. After having seen how much work each of them put into delivering the event, it was the least I could do. And I am glad I did so, because it was the perfect occasion to experience Russia's magnitude and splendour: you really got the feeling that you visited so many different worlds rolled in one. It is a true marvel of mankind, how 11 cities so far away from one another and so rich and distinct came together to celebrate the same passion for football in their own way. It would be unfair to single one city out: I loved my time in Russia, and I have no doubt that the more than one million tourists who visited the country during the World Cup feel the same.
If you were asked to name the best footballer of the 21st century until now, who would it be?
Again, why limit our choices? We have been fortunate enough to witness the magic of Zinédine Zidane, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and a full decade of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi playing at an unreal level. I prefer to sit back and watch history write itself.
When it was all over, Gianni Infantino could say with satisfaction that it had been THE BEST WORLD CUP EVER