KEIR RADNEDGE in ZURICH: Sepp Blatter has insisted that the 2018 World Cup will go ahead in Russia and that proponents of a boycott do not understand the power of football to achieve change.

The president of world federation FIFA was addressing political issues arising out of Russia’s military involvement against Ukraine.

Early this week Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko urged a World Cup boycott in response to continuing fighting in the east of the country.

Asked if he could guarantee the staging of the World Cup in Russia, Blatter said: “What is 100pc? The World Cup will take place in Russia in 2018, that’s sure. They are working very hard and a boycott of a World Cup or of any sporting event has never brought any solutions to anybody.

“A European Parliament committee is asking for a boycott. Three or four months ago it was a boycott of the World Cup in qatar and now it’s the World Cup in Qatar.

“I am very happy that the last news [from Poroshenko] coming out two or three days ago in Germany was immediately answered by the IOC president [Thomas Bach] and by the DFB president [Wolfgang Niersbach]: ‘No! No boycott of the World Cup.'”

Sporting strength

Blatter then went on to extol the power of football to cut through barriers of belligerence.

He said: “In Russia, to the contrary, the World Cup will be able to stabilise the situation this region of Europe is suffering now. I am sure football is stronger than any other movement.

“When I look at the geopolitical map today and look at Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, I see that in all these countries where there have been or still are belligerent activities, football is played. For example, Syria’s under-17 team has qualified for Chile in October.

“This shows what football is – football is connecting people and this will be the same at the level of the World Cup.”

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