President Dmitry Medvedev: Of course I am delighted to meet with you today. Like all our citizens, I followed with great interest what happened at the championship and took great pleasure in your success. And I can say that you achieved an extraordinary athletic feat. I know that sounds pretentious but it’s absolutely what happened: improving from game to game and displaying superb physical conditioning, great individual skill and collective vision. Watching you was a great pleasure for the whole country. And, of course, as I know you are well aware, we were so looking forward to these games, to these victories, that when it all happened and you had such an outstanding success, I think that the country was not disappointed in the end that you got the bronze medal rather than the gold. It was a great achievement. Only you know how great. And you had enormous support from all our fans, all our citizens.
I want to share with you some of my emotions. When you played against Holland — I am not an old-timer, not a long-time fan like many people from the older generation — but I will tell you honestly, and this is the absolute truth, I have never seen a more interesting game in my life, a game in which Russia was playing. It really was just a wonderful game. I think that it will live forever in the annals of our football teams. I am confident that you will be able to continue your winning ways. We all need it, the country needs it. You are seeing how the country has reacted, how all our people have reacted, because in recent years our fans have taken on a different attitude. You remember how it was before: all the negative comments not that long ago. People said “not again, we’re tired of losing.” And now a single spontaneous movement has begun. Of course this is because you played brilliantly, and because our people know how important this is for the country, how splendidly your success has positioned us in the world. Our fans are no longer detached from the national team. This is just great. And one more thing: of course what you've done is a tremendous example for boys and girls, for those who love and cherish you, for those who want to play football, for those involved in other sports. Because without such victories these incentives would not exist. This is just great. Thank you very much for everything. We are grateful to you for this wonderful game and hope that lots of similar accomplishments, interesting matches, and brilliant victories lie ahead. Thank you.
If anyone wants to say something, please feel free.
Team Captain Sergei Semak: I would like to thank you for the warm reception and for the invitation to visit this magnificent residence in the Moscow region. I think that now no one need be ashamed to wear the uniform [of Team Russia], we can wear it proudly.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, I’ve been wearing mine all evening and when I play myself, much to the envy of my son.
Sergei Semak: Perhaps, after we lost 4–1 [to Spain in the first round] it wasn’t worth much, but now you can wear it. At least until the World Cup. I hope our team makes it there and that we enjoy just as much success. Thank you very much.
Dmitry Medvedev: Thank you.
Team Russia Coach Guus Hiddink (as translated): We are honoured to be here at the residence of the President. I would like to touch on two points that you raised. First of all, we are very happy and proud that we were able to slightly change the attitude of fans towards the team. And secondly: I think that it is very important to seize such moments to move forward on other fronts, such as youth soccer. We are proud that you have done this.
Dmitry Medvedev: I think that I am expressing the general view – of the team and of course millions of Russian fans – when I say that a very considerable part the team’s success is owed to its coach. I would like to sincerely thank Mr Hiddink for all his hard work, for the optimism that you have shown, and for the atmosphere, which as a result of your work was created in the team. We look forward to your continued success.
It’s hot today so we’re going to have bit of a photo session in the shade and then we’ll go have something to eat.
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From exchanges with journalists in the course of meeting with Russia’s football team:
Question: Dmitry Anatolyevich, is it a pleasure to govern a winning country?
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course it’s gratifying when the country wins. It’s not so much the feeling of governing the country, but rather enjoying the country’s success. It’s gratifying for everyone, not just the President. Are you pleased when your country wins?
Dmitry Medvedev: Well so am I.
Question: But this series of successes that Russia has had recently, how can it be accounted for?
Dmitry Medvedev: The Force is with us. As you know, Russia has found its focus. The whole country is focussed and has broken through in all sorts of areas. This has a cumulative effect. A weak state is rarely able to achieve anything, not only in industry, or in providing security, or in defence, but also in sport and in culture. Because this requires money, attention and work, the sort of work that we have done in football recently. I therefore believe that this is the result of a lot of hard work, not just a propitious combination of circumstances. Luck counts for a lot, it’s true. But luck usually goes to the strong. Do you agree?