FIFA President Gianni Infantino gives a speech at an awards ceremony in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on May 23, 2019. REUTERS / Evgenia Novozhenina
MOSCOW (Reuters) – FIFA president Gianni Infantino thanked Russia on Thursday for hosting the "best world cup ever", as President Vladimir Putin presented him with a state award for his role in making the tournament possible last year.
In a Kremlin ceremony broadcast on television, Putin thanked "all those who helped to give birth to this dream", including the head of the world football governing body.
Infantino, with the medal of the order of friendship pinned to the collar, replied: "You have welcomed the world as friends, and the world has created bonds of friendship with Russia that will last forever".
Russia's 2010 success to host the 2018 tournament, which FIFA oversaw with Infantino's discredited predecessor Sepp Blatter, was marked by corruption charges in the bidding process that also saw the 2022 event assigned to Qatar.
In 2014, FIFA cleared the Russian authorities of infringements, even though Western critics continued in the race for the tournament to question its security credentials and suggest that it could play politically in Putin's hands. Qatar has also been cleared of crime.
But the event of a month ago, distributed in 11 cities, passed without major security incidents and was considered a success by players and fans.
Putin said at the time that the World Cup had helped to reduce the stereotypes about his country.
Blatter was awarded state awards from Germany and South Africa, which hosted the 2006 and 2010 tournaments.
Report by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; additional reporting by Brian Homewood in Bern; editing by John Stonestreet
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