SOCHI: FIFA president Sepp Blatter has offered politicians who want a World Cup boycott in 2018 an open invitation to stay true to themselves – and stay away from Russia writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Blatter was speaking after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the SportAccord Convention in Sochi.

The FIFA president, who is seeking re-election for a fifth term next month, said: “If a few politicians are not particularly happy that we are hosting the World Cup in Russia, then I always tell them: ‘Well then, stay at home'”

Blatter went on to praise Russia’s preparations thus far and assure Putin he was looking forward to a “wonderful” tournament.

He added: “I am proud that Russia is getting ready to host the World Cup. A lot of this

is happening thanks to President Putin, but also due to the Sports Minister (Vitaly) Mutko and (Alexei) Sorokin (ceo of the Local Organising Committee). They are a true team and have a wonderful working relationship.

“Everything is going to plan and nothing will get in the way of Russia hosting the best ever World Cup. The economic situation is not the best, but I know it will get better.

“Some people are wanting the World Cup to be taken away from Russia, but we will give one answer to this — we are involved in football and we will not allow politics to get in the way.”

Sochi is one of World Cup host cities with matches being played in the Fischt stadium which staged the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games last year.

Blatter’s stance was endorsed, independently, by Olympic president Thomas Bach after a meeting in Lausanne with Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko.

Bach reiterated that the role of sport was to bring people together, as had been emphasised by the United Nations’ recent resolution on the autonomy of sports. He considered that as a statement that boycotts were incompatible with the UN request for respect of the values of sport..