Love for football unites world

- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, MOSCOW

Jun 15, 2018-Russia kicked off their World Cup in style on Thursday, scoring early against Saudi Arabia in front of an ecstatic crowd in Moscow after President Vladimir Putin officially declared the tournament open.

After a performance from British pop star Robbie Williams, Putin told the 80,000 crowd at the Luzhniki Stadium: “I congratulate all of you at the start of the most important championship in the world.”

“Love for football unites the entire world in one

team, regardless of people’s language or ideology,”

Putin said to thunderous cheers from the capacity crowd.

Russia is spending more than $13 billionon hosting football’s showpiece, the most important event in the country since the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics.

The money lavished on the tournament will boost Putin’s already sky-high prestige at home by giving many of the 11 host cities their first facelifts in generations.

The tournament also offers Putin a chance to project Russia as a global player that is accepted and respected even while being at odds with the United States.

He is attempting to do so despite Russia being hit by international sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014.

Putin hopes the most-watched event on the planet provides Russia with the “soft power” needed to capture a sceptical world’s hearts and minds.

Published: 15-06-2018 07:16

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