Hulk pulls out of World Cup qualifying draw in St Petersburg
Last Updated: 24/07/15 5:56pm
Zenit St Petersburg's Brazilian striker Hulk has pulled out of Saturday's World Cup qualifying draw, only days after complaining of "gross and ugly" racism in Russian football.
FIFA said that Hulk had withdrawn from his role as one of the draw assistants due to club commitments and will be replaced by former Russia captain Alexey Smertin at the event in St Petersburg.
Zenit are away to FC Ural on Sunday in a Russian Premier League match, although there have been no alterations to the fixture list since FIFA initially announced on Wednesday that Hulk would take part in the draw.
"It was a great honour for me and the club to be invited to the draw,” Hulk told Zenit’s official website. "Every player in the world would be happy to be a part of such an important event.
"It is with great regret I have to inform I will not be able to attend the draw because of the ongoing training process, upcoming away match, long flight and time zone changes which make it impossible for me to be present."
The World Cup's local organising committee also said the decision was made purely on sporting grounds by Zenit coach Andre Villas-Boas.
"Very recently, we found out that the coach of Zenit made a decision based on purely sporting reasons to withdraw this player from taking part in the draw show," said the committee's chief executive Alexey Sorokin.
"I reiterate that this decision was purely of a sporting nature because Zenit has a game on Sunday in Yekaterinburg, so the coach decided the team need to leave together, not leaving anyone behind."
Other former internationals who will take part in the qualifying draw for the 2018 World Cup in Russia include Ronaldo, Diego Forlan, Fabio Cannavaro, Samuel Eto'o and Oliver Bierhoff.
Hulk complained bitterly about racism in Russian football earlier this week.
"It (racism) happens at almost every match in Russia but the world does not hear about it because they try to keep it quiet," Hulk told reporters on Monday at a Zenit training session.
After it was announced on Wednesday that he would take part in the draw, Hulk said: "I'm really happy. I feel flattered by the invitation to take part of this event that kicks off the way towards the next World Cup. I feel plainly adapted to Russia and my family really likes St Petersburg.
"Because I travel quite a lot, I'm seeing the construction works throughout the host cities and the build-up of the new stadiums, especially over the last year. From the window of my flat I have a view to Zenit's new stadium, which will be used in the World Cup. It looks beautiful. I hope to be able to play the next World Cup, here, close to my home."