Doha, Bengaluru, July 16: As curtains came down on the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with Les Bleus emerging champions after thrashing Croatia 4-2 in the final at the Luzhniki Stadium, it was time for Russia to hand over the mantle to 2022 hosts Qatar.
Russian President Vladimir Putin did the honours as he handed the baton to Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani at a function in Kremlin which was attended ny FIFA chief Gianni Infantino.
"Russia is handing over the relay baton for hosting the FIFA World Cup to Qatar," Putin said.
"I'm sure that our friends from Qatar will be able to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup on the same high level. We are, of course, ready to share the experience we acquired in holding the World Cup this year, along with our friends," Putin added.
"I'm sure that our friends from Qatar will be able to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup on the same high level. We are, of course, ready to share the experience we acquired in holding the World Cup this year, along with our friends," Putin said.
At the climax of the ceremony, Putin handed an official World Cup ball to Infantino, who then handed it on to the Qatari emir.
Sheikh Tamim said his country would apply all its efforts to making a success of the 2022 World Cup. "We hope to overcome all the difficulties," he said as Qatar continues to be involved in a political row with its Gulf Co-operation Council neighbours over its alleged support for terrorism.
The Qatari emir also added his country would also try to outdo the success on the pitch of the Russian team, who surpassed expectations by reaching the quarterfinals.
"Although it will be hard to repeat that success as we're a small country, but we are very keen on sport," he said.
The ceremony marked a handover from the world's largest country by landmass to one of the smallest. Qatar's hot summer temperatures forced FIFA even to change the World Cup schedule from the traditional June-July window to November-December. The 2022 World Cup will be held from November 21 to December 18, with the final scheduled on Qatar's national day.
Qatar's small size, its lack of ready stadium infra-structure and sports culture have raised eyebrows about the FIFA decision to award it the hosting rights. However the organisers say they will rise to the challenge.
The country is building eight new stadiums, one of which is already ready. The other seven is expected to be complete by by 2021.
Over the past six weeks, 180 professionals appointed by Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC) -- the local organising committee in charge of Qatar 2022 -- were in Russia, shadowing and observing the World Cup operation in the 11 host cities.
Talking about the Russia experience, SC secretary general Hassan Al Thawadi commented, "This has been an unparalleled learning opportunity for everyone involved in the preparations for Qatar 2022. We've also had the pleasure of interacting with football fans from all over the world and given them an idea of the kind of hospitality they can expect in four years' time".
Al Thawadi added, "We congratulate Russia on hosting a memorable World Cup and look forward to following this success in 2022 with another fantastic experience for football fans everywhere."
Infantino promised all help to Qatar to deliver a standout World Cup, which is going to be held for the first time in the Middle East.
"We already work very closely with Qatar 2022, and the experience here in Russia made the bonds even stronger. The shadowing programme provided a fantastic opportunity to share knowledge and exchange experience.
"Qatar's public interactions in Moscow and Saint Petersburg have ignited excitement among the global football community and the reaction has been fantastic, with fans and the general public very keen to engage with Qatari culture and heritage. The activities showcase the fact that Qatar will host a unique tournament - one that is compact, welcoming to all and family-friendly."
(With inputs from Agencies/SC)