It was the first time Russia hosted the FIFA World Cup. The matches were held at 12 stadiums in 11 cities across the country. The Russian national team performed better than they had ever done, making it to the quarterfinals. The Russian President attended the opening and closing ceremonies of the championship.
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Speech at the ceremony to present state decorations and letters of recognition to the athletes and coaches of the Russian national football team
Russian President Vladimir Putin: Friends,
A very good afternoon to all of you and a warm welcome to the Kremlin.
We are aware of the results of the World Cup, we remember so well how it unfolded, and we know the results. Even though you did not get any medals, I was nevertheless eager to meet you and to personally thank you for your work, for how you played and to present you with letters of recognition and state decorations.
I would like to stress that at the first ever home FIFA World Cup you performed brilliantly, showing unity, strong will and stamina, you advanced towards your goal – and we all saw it – without sparing yourselves.
And the way you lived up to the team’s slogan, ”We Play for You“, meant even more for the fans than any medals. Although, as we see it, advancing to the World Cup quarterfinals is a worthy result nevertheless.
Special words go to those who are awarded state decorations. This is first of all the coach of our national team Stanislav Cherchesov.
We all witnessed how his strategy of player selection and training paid off, how significant his mastery is and his talent as a psychologist, mentor and leader.
The Russian national team’s captain goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev will also get a deserved award. He saved the situation on the pitch a number of times and in essence determined the outcome of the matches.
And the moment when he made a save at the final penalty shot [in the match against Spain], I think, will become a legend of world and Russian football.
Another order will be awarded to Sergei Ignashevich. The defender has played 127 games for the national team and has been in professional football for over 20 years.
The World Cup games became a well-deserved finale of Sergei Ignashevich’s career; we appreciate his contribution to the progress of Russian football, and we certainly wish him good luck.
Friends, let me reiterate that your selfless, well-concerted play became a long-awaited-for gift to millions of fans in our country. Not only fans – even people who are not interested usually in sports let alone football were glued to their television screens.
You gave them all a possibility to be proud of their national team, to be proud of you, to be proud of their country, you gave them a conviction that national football is alive and kicking again, is becoming more spectacular as well as powerful and is gaining respect.
You showed a wonderful example of dedication and the effectiveness of teamwork, all the beauty of tough sports rivalry. It is owing to you that many more people will get interested in sports and will take it up, will opt for an active, healthy lifestyle for themselves and their children. And this is, perhaps, the main legacy of the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
We will keep creating all the necessary conditions for developing football and sports in general, including through the effective use of the facilities built for the World Cup.
They will become a foundation for a network of children’s football centres, a site for improving the skills of students of athletic schools, of football academies, a sort of “talent foundry” for our main national football tournament – the Russian championship.
And we certainly expect new bright stars of our and world football to light up, who will in due time make up our national team and will glorify the country. Meanwhile, friends, the responsibility for the athletic honor of the Motherland lies, undoubtedly, with you. And we really count on you.
You have proved that you can win, apparently, you did it yourselves, and everyone expects new victories from you, the same self-sacrifice at forthcoming tournaments.
Fans throughout the whole country certainly believe in their team, they are proud of you, support you whole-heartedly and wish you every success.
Once again my congratulations. Thank you very much.
Stanislav Cherkesov: I now understand the phrase “I am lost for words.” Up until now, I did not really understand what it meant.
I can say with full responsibility on behalf of the boys that we were doing our job not for the awards but because we represent Russia, the dignity and honour of our country. We managed it in one respect, morally, whereas from the athletic side we did not do it in full, as you have rightly noted here. And the boys would like to come here again but in a different capacity.
Igor Akinfeyev: Thank you very much for such trust.
We are delighted to be here. We are probably grateful to you, first of all, for having the infrastructure, for having modern stadiums, we can be proud of it because this will help not only football but sports in general.
I think that the World Cup unfolded, and forgive me if I say so myself, it unfolded with flying colours, and those people who were fascinated, I think were probably fascinated not only by the football but also by our country. I think this is a huge celebration. And we must take pride in this.
Sergei Ignashevich: Thank you very much for the invitation.
It is a great honour for us to be here, and we are overwhelmed with happiness that by merely playing football we managed to make millions of Russians happy, especially children.
Thank you very much.
Artyom Dzyuba: Greetings to everyone,
Mr President, it is an enormous honour for us to be here and we are so proud to be playing for our country. We will be even more pleased if you switch your ice hockey skates for a pair football boots. That will indeed be the most wonderful thing for us.
Thank you very much.
Denis Cheryshev: Good afternoon,
First of all, I would like to sincerely thank you for your support, for all the conditions you provided for us during the World Cup, and of course, for the possibility to be here today. It is a great honour for us.
Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Friends,
Let me congratulate you again on both playing in the World Cup and on your awards.
As far as trading my ice hockey skates for football boots, you know, I would have to trade in my kimono and forget about skiing. Unlike you, I am not an athlete, just an amateur, and amateurs do a little of everything, including football, of course.
The number of football supporters will definitely grow, especially after your performance at the World Cup. There were many fans before, but now there will certainly be more, and I will be one of them.
What would I like to say at the end of today’s ceremony? Of course, sport resembles art in some ways, yet there is an essential difference.
The difference is that you can simply enjoy art, just enjoy the process, whereas sport requires a result, sport means fighting. So the head coach was right in saying – still in the heat of the games, of course, but what he said about the results: the results are not just the score, the points, seconds and medals, the results are expressed in a common desire, the determination to fight and the will to achieve a result. This is very important.
And you did show these great results. This is probably the key thing that people are grateful to you for, those who love football in our country and abroad, by the way. I recently met with our colleagues in South Africa – everyone was talking about football, and practically everyone mentioned the high quality, and the good and estimable performance by our team.
Thank you very much. I wish you successes.