Saint Petersburg - FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Saturday vowed "total
support" for Russia's Soccer World Cup preparations in a meeting with Russian
head of state President Vladimir Putin.
Putin in turn promised a "grandiose" World Cup in 2018 at their
talks ahead of the draw for the qualifying phase.
Some US senators have called for a boycott of the World Cup because of
Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict. But Blatter, whose organisation
is at the centre of a major corruption scandal, has strongly rejected any such
suggestion and condemned political interference in sport.
"FIFA will always be behind Russia" and give "total
support" to the 2018 World Cup, Blatter told Putin at the Konstantin
palace in St Petersburg where the draw was held.
"We say 'yes' to Russia," Blatter added. "Football does a lot
for peace. It is especially important in the current geopolitical
Blatter gave the same message at the draw ceremony, insisting to the 2,000
guests that FIFA will "always stand behind Russia." He added that
FIFA's executive committee had this week reaffirmed its "trust and
confidence" in Russia.
Putin said Russia will "do everything to make sure that the sportsmen
and supporters who come will feel at home and that those who watch the
television will feel that they are participating in a grandiose international
The Russian leader also made a reference to the scandals that have embroiled
FIFA, partly over the award of the 2018 tournament to Russia.
"We see what is happening around football," Putin told Blatter.
"We are grateful that you still concentrate your time and attention above
all on sport," he said.
Putin told the ceremony that Russia has "a long history of
football" and that the World Cup was an opportunity "to show a
multi-faceted and open Russia that can surprise and inspire."
Russia was awarded the 2018 World Cup in a vote in 2010 when Qatar got the
The vote process is now at the centre of a corruption probe by Swiss
The inquiry was launched in parallel to a US corruption investigation in
which seven FIFA officials were detained while they were at a congress of the
world governing body in Zurich in May.
The Kremlin said at the time that the arrests were a bid to influence the
re-election of Blatter. The Swiss official secured a fifth term but has since
announced he will stand down and a new election for a replacement held on