Blatter: FIFA says ‘yes to Russia’

Date published: Saturday 25th July 2015 5:17

Blatter met Putin ahead of Saturday’s qualifying draw before the pair shared the stage at the ceremony in St Petersburg. 

The outgoing FIFA president gave his full support to Russia amid ongoing concerns about racism in the country, its current political situation and the ongoing investigation into the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding.

“Today is an important day in the long and winding road to the World Cup 2018,” Blatter said in his speech at the Konstantin Palace. “We are on track, Russia will be a fantastic host. It will be a wonderful moment for Russia, the rest of the world and for football.”

Earlier this week, FIFA set the Russian Football Union a deadline of next Tuesday to provide information on a recent incident of alleged racism in the Russian Premier League, and Zenit St Petersburg’s Brazilian striker Hulk pulled out the World Cup qualifying draw days after complaining of “gross and ugly” racism in Russian football.

But Blatter has backed the country to host a successful and peaceful World Cup, adding: “Hundreds of thousands of visiting fans will come to Russia for the first time in their lives and will be met with warmth, friendship and real Russian hospitality.” 

Earlier, Blatter told Putin there was “complete trust” in Russia’s ability to host the tournament, despite the Swiss attorney general’s investigation into the bidding for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Blatter added: “We say ‘yes’ to Russia. Our support is especially important during the current geopolitical situation,” in reference to the country’s current conflict with Ukraine.

In response, Putin said to Blatter: “As promised, we will do all we can for sportsmen and fans alike to feel at home here.” 

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