Football: Fifa fully supports 2018 World Cup in Russia, says Blatter

Head of Fifa inspection committee Christian Unger (centre) talks to the media as he inspects the Luzhniki Stadium, which is under construction, in Moscow, on Oct 20, 2014. World football boss Sepp Blatter said on Tuesday that Fifa categorically
Head of Fifa inspection committee Christian Unger (centre) talks to the media as he inspects the Luzhniki Stadium, which is under construction, in Moscow, on Oct 20, 2014. World football boss Sepp Blatter said on Tuesday that Fifa categorically backs Russia's staging of the 2018 World Cup and praised its preparations. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - World football boss Sepp Blatter said on Tuesday that Fifa categorically backs Russia's staging of the 2018 World Cup and praised its preparations.

"Fifa unconditionally supports the staging of the World Cup by Russia," he told the R-Sport news agency in comments translated into Russian.

Diplomatic sources said last month that European nations were discussing a British-backed plan to boycott President Vladimir Putin's showpiece staging of the World Cup because of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

"A boycott will never give any positive effect," Blatter said, adding: "We trust the country, its government.

"Russia is the world's biggest country. You know, Russia is in the eye of the international media. Football can not only unite Russia but show the whole world that it is stronger that any protest movement," he said.

He compared the situation with Russia's hosting of the Winter Olympic Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi this year, when Western leaders stayed away.

"There was the same situation ahead of Sochi, but neither during nor after the Games, has there been a single word against these Games."

Blatter said that he was happy with Russia's progress in its preparations for hosting the 2018 World Cup.

"I can say that in comparison with Brazil, Russia is considerably ahead of schedule with four years remaining before the event's start," the Swiss said.

He came to Moscow to participate in a ceremony on Tuesday evening to present the 2018 World Cup logo. The ceremony starting 11.30pm Moscow time (4.30am on Wednesday in Singapore) will be televised and the new logo will be projected onto the facade of Moscow's legendary Bolshoi Theatre.

The Fifa boss added that the opening ceremony of the 2018 World Cup could take place a day ahead of the tournament's opening match kick-off.

"It's possible," he said.

"We tried to do that at the 2006 World Cup in Germany but it didn't work well.

"But I'm confident that in 2018 the ceremony should go off earlier. There are three stadiums in Moscow where we can hold the event's opening ceremony."