March 20, 2012 / 2:17 PM / 5 years ago

Akinfeyev becomes first ambassador for 2018 World Cup

Russia's goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev reacts during a Euro 2008 soccer match at Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, June 26, 2008.Dominic Ebenbichler/Files

MOSCOW (Reuters) - CSKA Moscow goalkeeper Igor Akinfeyev has become the first ambassador of the 2018 soccer World Cup to be held in Russia, the local organising committee announced on Tuesday.

"It's a great honour, being an active player, to be chosen for this role," the 25-year-old Russia international told a news conference in Moscow.

"As a Russian I'm really proud that such a major tournament will be held in our country for the first time. Our people will show great hospitality and will greet all fans around the world with open arms."

Akinfeyev made his Russia debut in a friendly against Norway in April 2004 at the age of 18, becoming the third youngest player to compete for his country. He was later included in Russia's 23-man squad for Euro 2004 but did not play there.

Four years later, he helped Russia to reach the Euro 2008 semi-finals - the country's best showing in a major championship in two decades.

However, he was cautious about predicting whether he would take part in 2018.

"Unlike your personal life, you just can't have long-term plans in a professional career," said the keeper, who has had two major operations on his knees in the past four years.

Reporting By Gennady Fyodorov; Editing by Clare Fallon

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