“Love for football unites the entire world in one team, regardless of people's language or ideology,” Putin says.
Russian President Vladimir Putin officially opened the World Cup on Thursday at a ceremony in Moscow's 80,000-seat Luzhniki Stadium.
Minutes before Saudi Arabia kicked off the tournament against host nation Russia, Putin said: “I congratulate all of you at the start of the most important championship in the world.”
“Love for football unites the entire world in one team, regardless of people's language or ideology,” Putin said to thunderous cheers from the capacity crowd.
The opening ceremony included a mini-concert by British pop star Robbie Williams, who performed “Let Me Entertain You”.
Russia has left no stone unturned preparing for its most important event since the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, spending more than $13 billion on infrastructure in the 11 host cities.