Attending the meeting were Presidential Aide Igor Levitin, and Gazprom Neft Management Board Chairman and CEO, President of the Russian Football Union Alexander Dyukov.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Čeferin, I am very happy to see you again.
It is not a coincidence that you are in St Petersburg. We are well aware that St Petersburg is among the12 European cities chosen to host UEFA Cup matches next year. And this will be a special tournament since it will coincide with the 60th anniversary of the championships, European football championships. It carries a lot of meaning for us because when the first championship was held 60 years ago, the winner was the national team of the Soviet Union.
Russia has been a UEFA member since its founding in 1954, if I am not mistaken. And our representatives are involved in most of its committees and commissions.
Mr President, while in Nizhny Novgorod, you praised Russia’s abilities to prepare and hold large-scale international competitions. We will do our best not to let you down, not to disappoint the fans and players.
President of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Alexander Čeferin: Thank you very much for inviting me, Mr President. It is an honour, it is a pleasure, not just because St Petersburg is one of the 12 cities, but also because there is a very important match of Zenit St Petersburg here tonight. We will go to see the Champions’ League match.
We are at UEFA very happy that Russia is more and more a football country. And I must say that the World Cup was organised perfectly. I am not much of a diplomat, and those two guys know that I do not just speak to be nice, but I really mean it. It was organised perfectly, and I am sure you are capable of organising top events in the future.
Thank you very much again, especially because I know that your schedule is unbelievable, for taking some time to meet tonight.
Vladimir Putin: You are correct in pointing out that football’s popularity is growing in our country. It has been and remains the most popular sport. But its popularity is growing indeed. Today, according to our estimates, about 3 million of our people are connected with football one way or another. And the surge in popularity is linked, among other things, with hosting such large events as the FIFA World Cup, for example.