Blatter defends 2018 World Cup and calls Russia ‘stronger than any protest movement’

Fifa president claims that a boycott of the 2018 World Cup "will never give any positive effect"

From left, Russian sport minister Vitaly Mutko, Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Fifa president Sepp Blatter look at a scale-model of Luzhniki stadium during Blatter's visit to Moscow on October 28, 2014. Mikhail Klimentyev / AFP
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Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, on Tuesday opposed any boycott of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and backed the preparations by the government for the event.

“A boycott will never give any positive effect,” Blatter said to a Russian news agency. “We trust the country, its government.

“Fifa unconditionally supports the staging of the World Cup by Russia.”

Diplomatic sources said last month that European nations were discussing a possible boycott of the World Cup over 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“When we receive letters from North America [asking for the World Cup to be withdrawn], we tell them that this is football,” Blatter said.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 cannot 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.

The Fifa chief said he was happy with Russia’s work on the 2018 World Cup where 12 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,” he said.

Blatter was in Moscow to participate in a ceremony on Tuesday to present the 2018 World Cup logo. The ceremony, held late Tuesday night, was scheduled to have the logo projected onto the facade of Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre.

“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.”

Blatter said 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.”

Jerome Valcke, the Fifa secretary general, who was also in Moscow, said the football’s governing body was happy with the results of an inspection tour of 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, the reconstructed Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, and Spartak Moscow’s 42,000-seat Otkrytie arena, which went into service in September.

"The inspection tour was very well-organised," Valcke said. "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.

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