MOSCOW, April 19. /TASS/. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Tuesday he was glad that newly-elected FIFA President Gianni Infantino selected Russia for paying an official visit in his new capacity.
"I welcome the FIFA president with all my heart," Mutko, who is also the president of the Russian Football Union (RFU), said at a joint press conference with Infantino in Moscow. "We [Russia] are hosting the 2018 World Cup and his decision [on the visit] is understandable."
Infantino, elected the president of the world’s governing body of football less than two months ago, is paying his first official visit to Russia on April 19-20 in his new capacity.
Jointly with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin he inspected on Tuesday morning the course of the reconstruction works at the Luzhniki Arena in the Russian capital.
Former UEFA Secretary General Infantino, 45, was one of the five candidates running for the FIFA presidency and on February 26 at the Extraordinary Congress in Zurich he was voted in the second ballot by the organization’s member associations to take charge of the world’s governing body of football.
Russia is currently in full-swing preparations for the global football championship after the country won the bid to host the 2018 World Cup at the FIFA Congress in Guatemala on December 4, 2010. The victory came following a tight race against the bid from England, the joint bid from Portugal and Spain and the joint bid on behalf of Belgium and the Netherlands.
The country selected 11 host cities to be the venues for the matches of the 2018 World Cup and they are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and Samara.
The matches of the 2018 World Cup will be held between June 14 and July 15 at 12 stadiums located in the 11 mentioned above cities across Russia. Two of the stadiums are located in the Russian capital.
Last September, a total of 33 cities across Russia involving over 450,000 people were celebrating the 1,000-day countdown to the 2018 World Cup.