Russia's sports minister likened the geopolitical impact of Russia hosting the 2018 World Cup to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.
For Russians, who love soccer, it looks like much more than a smart marketing decision by FIFA, which aims to expand beyond its traditional turf. Many immediately saw it as yet another indication that their former communist country has come in from the cold and finally gained acceptance as an important member of the European community.
"It is a huge victory for Russia and a big event for our soccer," says Vladimir Konstantinov, soccer expert with the popular Moscow daily Sport Express. "I hope in eight years' time we'll have a revolutionary new infrastructure for soccer, which we do not have now. This will give an impulse to the economic development of the country, development of transport, service. I have been to several soccer championships and it was always a colossal holiday for the people."
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