FIFA President Sepp Blatter warns against boycott of 2018 World Cup
Last Updated: 28/10/14 2:36pm
FIFA President Sepp Blatter has categorically backed Russia's staging of the 2018 World Cup and praised its preparations.
Reports last month suggested some European nations were considering a boycott of the competition because of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
But Blatter insists he is fully supportive of the hosts and says a boycott would be counter-productive.
"FIFA unconditionally supports the staging of the World Cup by Russia," he said. "A boycott will never give any positive effect. We trust the country, its government.
Russia is in the eye of the international media. Football can not only unite Russia but show the whole world that it is stronger that any protest movement.
"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 that 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," he said.
But the two countries will be put into separate groups at the 2018 tournament if the Ukrainians qualify and relations do not improve.
When asked about keeping the teams apart, Blatter replied: "You can be sure about this."
FIFA are pleased with Russia's progress as they prepare to stage the competition in a few years time.
"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.
He added that the opening ceremony of the 2018 World Cup could take place a day ahead of the tournament's opening match kick-off.
"It's possible," said Blatter. "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."