WARSAW: Zbnigniew Boniek, president of the Polish football federation, has said Russia should be stripped of hosting the 2018 World Cup because of the ongoing military conflict with Ukraine.
The former Juventus and Poland midfielder, looking back at the decision by world federation FIFA in December 2010, said: “Hosting the World Cup in Russia is a disastrous mistake, it’s a country engaged in war, who invaded another country.
“When FIFA chose Russia the situation was totally different. But now, when Russia is at war with Ukraine? There should be a clause in the contract between FIFA and the host country that enables the executive committee to strip that country in the event of a war. Or violating the charter of the United Nations.”
Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup, beating bids by England and joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Holland/Belgium. Since then, there has been growing criticism over racism at matches and also the country’s stance on gay rights as well as concerns about the conflict with neighouring Ukraine.
In March a report from European anti-discrimination network FARE evidenced more than 200 incidents of racism within Russian domestic football over two years, prompting FIFA to say it was “concerned”.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter met Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Sochi last month and expressed his continued support for the 2018 World Cup.
Blatter, maintaining an insistence that politics and sport should not mix, said: “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.
“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.”
Boniek said he was unlikely to attend the qualifying draw in St Petersburg on 25 July, given his views about the country hosting the finals.
He told Gazeta Wyborcza: “Should I pretend that nothing is happening, that all’s fine? Should I attend and listen to the music like there’s no war? I feel uncomfortable so I’m thinking of going to Sardinia for holidays at the time.
“Other FA heads know my stance. I could possibly officially ask whether FIFA feels comfortable staging its biggest tournament in a country that is at war with Ukraine.
“But what will I gain asking that? Some papers will do interviews with me and that’s it. Does anyone really think FIFA would strip Russia of the World Cup?”