MOSCOW: Before the start of 2018 FIFA World Cup, Russian President Vladimir Putin was asked who would win the World Cup and he responded, ‘The Organisers’.
Russian team may have fallen at the quarter-finals, but ‘The Organisers’ are true and worthy winners off-the-field. Being an accredited journalist, you get to interact with media personnel from around the world and every single one of them echoed the same sentiment as the FIFA President Gianni Infantino--’This is the Best World Cup ever’.
It would be unfair to point out things about South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014, but even the fans, who have been to more than one World Cups opinionated the same, that Russia has done the best.
But wasn’t it supposed to be a flop show, with all the negativity surrounding the tournament?
If one remembers correctly, it was the similar atmosphere was being created ahead of 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, later World Cup in Brazil or even 2016 Rio Olympics, the 2018 FIFA World Cup and there are reports maligning the image of 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as well by the Western Media. In reality, all these events have turned out to be very successful sporting events.
MASTERSTROKE OF FAN ID
Months before the World Cup, the Russian Government put a system in place and created a ‘FAN ID’, mandatory for all the fans travelling to the games, be it their own Russian fans or foreigners visiting the country.
Although there were one or two loose ends in the system, which allowed fans to travel to Russia without holding a match ticket, Russia achieved its own objective of security purpose with it.
The otherwise foolproof system has delivered the necessary results and it is talked that the same system should be implemented for all major sporting events henceforth.
As much as it benefited the officials, it benefitted the fans even more, as with the FAN ID, they were assisted better in case any help was needed. Using the same identity proof, Russian Railways, transported millions of fans from one host city to another. All those long-distance train journeys in this vast country were absolutely free for fans and media alike.
A pure masterstroke, from one of the most powerful leader of the world.
BREAKING THE STEREOTYPE
You ask an Englishman, an American, a Brazilian, a Colombian or a French, German, Nigerian, Japanese, Chinese or an Indian fan, or just any fan, walking randomly what they think about Russia, and they will only heap praise on the organisation of the tournament.
The chants of ‘Spasibo Russia’—Thank you, Russia—echoed at every single game across the country as fans from all around the world took a moment to recognise, appreciate and thank the efforts put in by the hosts to deliver what they promised.
All the negativity surrounding the country was washed away in the course of past one month, and all that is fills the hearts of fans are the beautiful memories Russians created for them with their hospitality.
Just as the Croatian team won the hearts of the fans, ‘The organisers’ will find a place in the hearts of fans all around, who will now head home saying, ‘Spasibo Russia!’