President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good evening.
Question: Mr President, what do you think of the final match? Who did you cheer for? In general, what are your impressions of this football tournament? You probably had no chance to sense the atmosphere in the streets of Russia. Have you been to the now famous Nikolskaya Street? Or maybe the commotion on Red Square could be heard in the Kremlin?
Vladimir Putin: I have to admit that I did see something from the Kremlin windows, but I had no chance to take part in the goings-on. But I kept track of everything that happened, and here is what I want to tell you in this connection.
First, and I already said this yesterday, but I would like to repeat it today, that we can definitely feel proud of how we organised this tournament. As I said many times before, we did it for our fans in Russia and for sports enthusiasts everywhere around the world. And we have done it. We succeeded in all aspects of this huge event.
Today’s match was brilliant. I think you will agree with me. I do not remember, and few other people can remember a score like this, 4–2, in a final match. I am sure that all sports enthusiasts and football fans around the world were trembling with excitement throughout the match. Both teams are wonderful, and they played an open attacking football. I am sure everyone enjoyed that. I did.
I have congratulated President of France Emmanuel Macron and my Croatian colleague. She was very temperamental and, I believe, even shed a tear or two. Yet everyone is happy and glad. Winning the silver medal is a major achievement for the Croatian team, which plays excellent, high quality football, as I see it. We congratulate them on this result.
Question: Which team did you support?
Vladimir Putin: I just enjoyed this amazing football match.
Question: Mr President, what can you say about the performance of the Russian team? After all, this was the first time the team went this far.
Vladimir Putin: Here is what I would like to say about this. I think that millions of people did not expect our team to show this result, no matter what some may be saying now. We can be proud that we have such a wonderful coach, and that he is Russian, and we can be proud of our team.
Of course, unlike art, sport is much more than mere contemplation. Sport is about achieving results. And the result for the Russian team was honourable. What matters most is that we realised that we have football in Russia, that we have a team, that we are about to develop our own style, and that we can strive for even higher results at international tournaments. Our team has proved that this is possible.
What I liked in particular is that the Russian players have shown their grit and played well. They fought to the very end. I think that this is what matters the most. This is something that deserves our gratitude and support. Of course, the result is impressive in itself, since we have not had anything like this for a long time. I think that we must congratulate them and inspire them to strive for future victories.
Question: Will you have a meeting with them?
Vladimir Putin: Yes, there will be a number of meetings, and they have been scheduled, first with the coach, and the captain, who will take part in a meeting of the Council for the Development of Physical Culture and Sport in Kaliningrad. After that there will definitely be a meeting with the team.
Question: Mr President, how often do you play hockey? Did the World Cup inspire you to play some football? You did play a little bit with Mr Infantino at the Kremlin, and on Red Square.
Vladimir Putin: I think that each and every one of us has played some football, and kicked the ball around. This is not enough, however. What are the reasons that make football so popular? First, when wonderful teams play at a high professional level, it is always fascinating to watch. In addition, we all get a feeling that any one of us can do it. Kicking a ball does not seem all that complicated. That being said, when you actually get into football it becomes a special kind of art. So far I have been playing hockey, and try to improve my game. I learned to skate a little bit, and will move in this direction.
Question: Do you think that the 4–2 score reflects the actual state of play on the pitch?
Vladimir Putin: Yes. We saw one curious goal, but overall the Croatian team also played openly and took risks, but they missed some opportunities, which happens. Overall, the French showed class, no doubt about that.
Question: Do you feel the winner today?
Vladimir Putin: As you may remember, we told you many times that the main goal for Russia is to properly organise the tournament. We have done it; we have achieved this goal, as everyone agrees.
This is what I would like to point out. We often complain about our fans, who sometimes misbehave because they are so emotional. But it turned out that they are also highly responsible people. Frankly, I was surprised, and I am very grateful to them for this. I would like to thank them for the attitude they have inspired towards this sports event. This largely happened thanks to our fans.
We are grateful to the coaches, specialists and the players of our team, who have inspired the fans to see football as a festival. We have succeeded thanks to good organisation. Hundreds if not thousands of volunteers helped us do this in all the host cities. I would like to thank them as well, because it was the volunteers who welcomed our guests, accompanied them and saw them off, doing all this with a smile and an open heart. Everyone has noticed this.
Today I do not want to talk about what was being said before the World Cup. Let us turn this page. Let us talk and think about the good things. We have produced a wonderful holiday thanks to the efforts of thousands of people.
Of course, we must also express gratitude to our guests – foreign tourists and fans. I would like to point out that attempts were made to intimidate us as well: some said the British fans are hooligans, and so on. But everyone behaved wonderfully, demonstrating the best qualities of sports enthusiasts and football fans. They have shown that sports and football do not disunite people or lead to quarrels and fights, but that it can bring people together on the basis of shared principles and values – cultural and humanitarian values.
Many foreigners have learned about our culture and our cities, and they have met our open-hearted people. And millions of people – not thousands but millions – have changed their views on Russia. It is an achievement, a big achievement.
Here is what we will do in this connection – I have discussed this with my foreign colleagues when I congratulated the Croats and the French. We will approve a visa-free entry for foreign holders of Fan IDs until the end of the year. I hope they, or at least many of them will use this opportunity, and that they will come to Russia many times again together with their friends and families.
Thank you, and all the best.