KEIR RADNEDGE in MANCHESTER: FIFA president Sepp Blatter has reiterated that the two next, contentious, World Cups will go ahead as awarded and scheduled in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.

The Russian hosting has come under politicians’ fire because of President Putin’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine and the Qatar finals have been assailed by concerns over climatic conditions and workers’ rights.

Blatter, addressing Soccerex Global Conventions, said: “The decisions have been taken and we trust in the strengths of football that the 2018 and 2022 World Cups will be played.

“There are some voices about 2018 talking about a boycott but a boycott in sport never has had any benefit. Let us wait and see the geo-political situation and FIFA should not intervene with politics. For the time being we are working with Russia. I have been there three weeks ago and I have had the report on the stadium work they are doing and they are on track.

“Concerning Qatar we still await the report of FIFA’s ethics committee who have made an indepth investigation [into the bidding procedure] and we are awaiting the results of that this month or next month.

“In the rotation of the World Cup it was obvious that one day we should give the World Cup also to the Arab world. That was a decision taken on December 2, 2010, by the executive committee. Now we have to make the best of it in order to show that also a small country can host the World Cup. But it is a challenge.”

Blatter did suggest that the United States might stand a strong chance of staging the finals again in the not-too-distant FIFA future.

This appealed to him “because of the tremendous television audiences and the way the World Cup has encouraged its domestic game.”

Blatter added: “We did well with football when the World Cup first went to the United States in 1994 but the opportunities are bigger now. If you look at the rotation of the World Cup then it should go back to Africa or go to the Americas. As we have just been in South America, I think North America has a better chance than South America.”

Blatter did concede that football could play an ameliorating role in areas of political conflict.

He said: “We did it in the island of Cyprus where now the Greek part and the Turkish part can play club football among them. There is no more wall between them. This is a benefit of football that has helped.

“We are also trying to help and bring a solution that is really, really difficult between Israel and Palestine. Here again football can help.

Football cannot be the driving force to try to find political solutions but the aim of football is to work for a better world. This is what we are doing and trying with all our development work.”

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