After a month full of excitement, the curtain was brought down on the 2018 World Cup in Russia with Fifa president Gianni Infantino handing over the trophy to France captain Hugo Lloris amid heavy rainfall at a jam-packed Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow Sunday night. With that moment, a successful tournament came to an end on an extremely positive note.
Really, Russia has done a wonderful job, not only by playing well in the World Cup, but by also achieving many other compliments along the way, which they richly deserve for organising the greatest show on earth in such a professional manner.
Not only Infantino, who claimed in the wrap-up press conference that this is the best World Cup ever, many experts and fans have echoed the same sentiment with the words “Spasiba, Russia”. Spasiba means “Thank You” in Russian and every traveler here came to hear the word several times from the locals on different occasions.
There were many negative things being talked about with regards to Russia before the grand event.
But the country, stretching some 17,125,200 sq. kms, proved everyone wrong, and showed the world how a vast affair can be hosted in such a planned way, in the presence of hundreds and thousands of fans who came to Russia for the greatest show on earth.
It was actually a huge task to maintain order in 11 different host cities, separated by hundreds of miles, with different cultural and linguistic hurdles. Not only that, most of the Russians barely speak any English and you will understand the original scenario when you look at different reports. According to different reports and datas, less than 10% people here can communicate in English.
And more importantly, in places where you must communicate, like cafés, taxis and hotels, most of the employees hail from other post-Soviet states like Armenia and Kazakhstan, among others. Though they don’t understand what you are saying, these people are super co-operative and ready to help you, no matter how long it takes.
Eventually, most of the problems had solutions, thanks to the smooth internet service. You can get internet access through SIM cards or wifi which are available almost anywhere. Google and other translators made life easy on occasions when one failed to communicate properly.
Russia is beautiful and too big to discover. So is Moscow. You will find a touch of class and history wherever you lay your eyes. In short, Russia is indescribable.
The transport system is great and many are heavily dependent on the fine Metro systems, which are available in most of the major cities. Every Metro station looked different, and can make you feel like you’re in a museum.
And one of the great decisions taken by the organisers was to give free rides to the fans and accredited members. This decision not only helped the people but was also praised by everyone. They arranged long distance trains from and to the host cities and made local rides free at every city on match days.
And to ease the remaining pain, more than 35,000 cheerful people worked here to make the event successful. Around 17,000 Fifa volunteers, mostly from Russia, were engaged throughout the tournament. They worked with smiles on their faces from start to end. Moreover, they were not paid.
Another 18,000 people were recruited by local authorities in each of the 11 Russian host cities. The volunteers included Bangladeshis who were more than eager to help out their fellow countrymen who went to Russia to cover the event. Whatever your need was, volunteers were good in communicating in English and were there to help everyone, from the airports, where you landed, right to the centre of the stadium. They helped to plan the travel route, arranging the transports and even in translating quotes of the players at the mixed zone.
The people in Russia also took the situation cordially and treated the seasonal guests very well. The craze of football here is not that much, compared to Latin America or the other big football-playing European nations, but it was a different scenario when Russia were going great guns. The fan zones were filled with people and the streets and places were decorated nicely on the occasion of the greatest show on earth.
On the field we witnessed so many things in the last one month. Exciting matches, great goals and late dramas, the introduction of the Video Assistant Referee, the fall of the supergiants and the rise of the so-called minnows were the features of the tournament.
The viewership in several mediums broke every previous record and was better than any other sporting event in history. And off the field, it was almost perfect, except a few minor incidents.
However, controversies like Mexican homophobic chanting, celebrations of a few Swiss and Croatian players, and the invasion of Pussy Riot streakers in the final could hardly mar the excellence of the event, which was previously questioned by threat of terror attacks, security and the hospitality of the host people.
Russia did it. And they laid the example in terms of unity and organisation. Now it’s Qatar’s turn in 2022.
Qatar is already under the limelight since the voting made them the host nation. Too many doubts have been expressed towards their winning process, and the confirmation of shifting the schedule to winter gave birth to more criticism.
But Qatar can learn from Russia, and apparently, is already doing so, according to their Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, who received the mantle officially from Russia president Vladimir Putin in the presence of Infantino at the Kremlin, ahead of the final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow between France and Croatia. Putin then ceremonially handed a football to the Emir to mark the transfer to Qatar, which will be the first Arab country to host the tournament.
Qatar has already started preparation for the big event and was shown advertising its slogan in different billboards and areas with the title “See you in Qatar” in the host cities in the dying moments of the Russia World Cup. So, let’s wait and see. The world will see what awaits us in Qatar after four and a half years.