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Blatter pledges ‘unconditional support’ for World Cup in Russia

The FIFA president says he opposes any boycott of the 2018 tournament.

Vladimir Putin, Sepp Blatter and Angela Merkel at the 2014 World Cup opening ceremony.
Vladimir Putin, Sepp Blatter and Angela Merkel at the 2014 World Cup opening ceremony.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

WORLD FOOTBALL BOSS Sepp Blatter today opposed any boycott of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and backed the huge preparations undertaken by President Vladimir Putin’s government for the mega event.

“A boycott will never give any positive effect,” Blatter told the R-Sport news agency in comments translated into Russian. “We trust the country, its government.”

“FIFA unconditionally supports the staging of the World Cup by Russia,” Blatter added.

Diplomatic sources said last month that European nations were discussing a possible boycott of the World Cup because of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Some politicians in Britain, Germany and the United States have called on FIFA to withdraw the World Cup from Russia.

“When we receive letters from North America (asking for the World Cup to withdrawn), we tell them that this is football,” Blatter said.

“Russia is the world’s biggest country. You know, Russia is in the eye of the international media. Football can not only unite Russia but show the whole world that it is stronger than any protest movement.”

He compared the situation with Russia’s hosting of the Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort of Sochi this year, when Western leaders stayed away.

“There was the same situation ahead of Sochi, but neither during nor after the Games, has there been a single word against these Games.”

Blatter said he was happy with Russia’s work on the 2018 World Cup. Twelve stadiums in 11 cities are to be used.

“I can say that in comparison with Brazil, Russia is considerably ahead of schedule with four years remaining before the event’s start,” Blatter said.

Culture

The FIFA president came to Moscow to participate in a ceremony to present the 2018 World Cup logo. This evening’s ceremony will see the logo projected onto the facade of Moscow’s legendary Bolshoi Theatre.

“Of course I already saw the logo and I liked it very much,” he said. “It displays Russia’s heart and soul and reflects the country’s great culture.”

The FIFA boss added that the opening ceremony of the 2018 World Cup could take place a day ahead of the tournament’s opening match.

“It’s possible,” he said.

“We tried to do that at the 2006 World Cup in Germany but it didn’t work well.

“But I’m confident that in 2018 the ceremony should go off earlier. There are three stadiums in Moscow where we can hold the event’s opening ceremony.”

FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke, who is also in Moscow, said the football’s governing body was happy with an inspection tour of the Russia’s World Cup venues this month.

The joint FIFA and local organising committee group went to the construction site of the Zenit arena in Saint Petersburg, the Kazan arena, which is already operational, the Sochi Olympics Fisht arena and the reconstruction of Moscow’s iconic Luzhniki stadium and Spartak Moscow’s 42,000-seat Otkrytie arena, which went into service in September.

“The inspection tour was very well-organised,” Valcke told reporters.

“We’re completely satisfied with all of the facilities of the World Cup in Russia.

“Russia has done a great amount of preparation work at all of the levels.”

The 2018 World Cup will take place in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Yekaterinburg, Samara, Sochi and Rostov-on-Don.

- © AFP, 2014

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