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Day before World Cup, Putin thanks FIFA for keeping politics out of sport

June 13, 2018 16:58 IST

FIFA President Gianni Infantino (right) and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow, Russia on Wednesday

IMAGE: FIFA President Gianni Infantino (right) and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend the 68th FIFA Congress in Moscow, Russia on Wednesday. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked FIFA on Wednesday for keeping politics out of sport, the day before the start of the soccer World Cup.

Russia will host the tournament from June 14 to July 15 in 12 stadiums spread across cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi.


"I wanted to underline FIFA's commitment to the principle of sports without politics," Putin said during a FIFA Congress in Moscow while standing next to the World Cup trophy.

The Russian football community has also made a fervent appeal to the game's stakeholders, including the globetrotting fans, to "shun negativity" and get behind the country as it geared up to host its maiden FIFA World Cup starting tomorrow.

The Russian Football Union's director general, Aleksandr Alaev, urged football fans from across the world to ignore "some critical remarks" on the country hosting the tournament.

Asked about an unpleasant comment in a local daily on Russia hosting the mega event, Alaev said, "I don't wish to comment on that, there are only two days left for the start of the World Cup, this is an important event and that's why let's forget about such things.

"Let's not make any comment on that at this moment. Let's just unite and join in the efforts to deliver a great World Cup. Let's hope that our Russian national football team will do their best to make an impression."

A couple of days ago, students from a top university in Moscow protested the construction of the World Cup fan zone near the varsity, fearing that thousands of partying fans will ruin the area.

They said that the authorities did not fulfil previous promises to look into the matter.

The area will have concerts and entertainment for up to 25,000 fans as well a giant interactive screen for those without tickets to watch matches.

There are also concerns about the national team's prospects in the tournament following a winless run of seven matches in the build-up.

Alaev also holds the post of secretary general in the Russian Football Union.

"The World Cup will of course influence the future development of football in Russia because the children will see the atmosphere, they will see how the games are played, and maybe in future they would like to become (professional) football players," Alaev said.

Meanwhile, the country's all-time leading scorer, Aleksandr Kerzhakov, said the quadrennial showpiece is another great platform for Russia to bolster its image.

"This is another chance for Russia to show that Russia is a very hospitable country, it is the most beautiful country in the world, and we are a multi-national and multi ethnic country," he said.

"So, there is a possibility for us to show that we are a country like that. After a wonderful time during the World Cup when they would hopefully enjoy the hospitality, maybe they would like to come back here once again. They will listen to all the good stories," Kerzhakov added on the sidelines of the 'Football 4 Friendship' (F4F) event.