(WFI) Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter suggests boycotting the World Cup over the Russian spy poisoning would achieve nothing.
Amid deteriorating relations between the UK and Russia over the attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on British soil, the idea of England boycotting the World Cup has been floated in some quarters.
The pair remain critically ill in hospital after they were poisoned with the nerve agent novichok in the southern English city of Salisbury on March 4, an attack the UK government blames on Russia.
British Prime Minister Theresa May stoked tensions last week, by announcing that government ministers and members of the royal family would not attend the World Cup in June in protest to the poisoning attack.
“Football has up to two billion followers. FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia: The most important sport event in the world,” Blatter wrote on his Twitter page.
“Therefore no boycott! Let’s play the game in peace and for peace!”
Blatter has been a vocal supporter of Russia since it was awarded World Cup hosting rights in December 2010.
In the aftermath of the scandal-hit World Cup vote, he blasted England’s losing 2018 bid, accusing it of sour grapes. The British media, who have often criticized Blatter’s controversial leadership, have also come under fire in recent years.
Nearly eight years on, Russia stages the World Cup this summer at 12 stadiums across 11 cities. The race is now on to get them finished in time.
On Wednesday, FIFA inspectors said the city of Samara’s World Cup stadium was behind schedule, with plenty of work to do. The pitch is still not down at the 45,000-seat stadium, with the tournament kicking off on June 14.
“Over the course of this project, we have spoken about delays in Samara,” FIFA chief competitions and events officer Colin Smith was quoted by Reuters on the venue inspection tour.
While progress has been made, he said “those delays are still evident now… There is a huge amount of work to be done.”
He called on Russian authorities and the stadium’s contractor to accelerate their efforts so the venue could be handed over to the organizing committee by the end of April to allow for the installation of temporary overlay.
Russia 2018 CEO Alexei Sorokin offered assurances that it would be complete.
In the World Cup host city of Saransk, FIFA inspectors noted their satisfaction with preparations at the Mordovia Arena. It is due to be handed over to the organizing committee by the end of this month, according to a report by state news agency TASS.
The other World Cup host cities are: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinburg.
The World Cup runs from June 14 to July 15.
On Friday, the World Cup showpiece arena, Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, hosts a friendly between Russia and Brazil. The stadium is set to stage the opening and final games of the tournament.
The Luzhniki Stadium has undergone a major facelift in the past few years in preparation for the World Cup, with capacity rising to over 80,000 for the FIFA competition.
By INSIDER Mark Bisson
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