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FIFA tells Putin world is ‘in love’ with Russia



FIFA president Gianni Infantino told President Vladimir Putin on Friday the world was “ in love ” with World Cup hosts Russia and praised him for overcoming negative stereotypes about the country .Infantino spoke at a meeting with Putin and former world football stars including former England defender Rio Ferdinand and ex – Denmark goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel .

“ We all fell in love with Russia , ” Infantino told a beaming Putin at the televised meeting in the Kremlin.

“ Everyone who has been here for a period of time now has discovered a country that we didn ’ t know . ”

Despite high tensions with the West , Putin has presided over a well – organised , good- humoured tournament .

Human rights groups warn however that he is using the world ’ s biggest sporting event to gloss over his authoritarian rule .

Human Rights Watch said the tournament is taking place “ during the worst human rights crisis in Russia since the Soviet era . ”

But the World Cup has created an unusual carnival atmosphere in traditionally conservative Russia — not least due to the home team ’ s own unexpected success .

“ Russia has become a true football country . The virus of football has entered into the bodies of each and every Russian citizen, ” Infantino said .

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Hundreds of thousands of foreigners are visiting , with many saying it has allowed them to discover a different , softer side to Russia .

“ Many stereotypes about Russia have simply collapsed , ” Putin told his guests , who also included Lothar Matthaus of Germany and Marco van Basten of the Netherlands .

“ People have seen that Russia is a hospitable country which is friendly to visitors . ”

Infantino praised Putin ’ s government for busting negative anti – Russian stereotypes .

“ All the fears that some were trying to put on us with regards to this World Cup, well not only they were not true but it ’ s actually the opposite . ”

Infantino was elected president of world football ’ s governing body in 2016 . His predecessor Sepp Blatter resigned following a corruption scandal .