SOCHI (Reuters) - World politicians unhappy that Russia will host the 2018 World Cup should “stay at home”, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on a visit to host venue Sochi on Monday.
“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 told reporters at a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Swiss said he was happy with Russia’s progress in preparing for the tournament which will be hosted in 11 cities.
“Your organising committee and you personally deserve five stars,” he told the Russian president.
Earlier this month, a group of U.S. senators urged football’s governing body to strip Russia of its role as host nation, objecting to Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has also advocated boycotting the tournament unless Moscow withdraws Russian troops which Kiev says are supporting separatist rebels in east Ukraine.
This is not the first time Russia has come under fire when hosting a major sporting tournament. The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games were mired in controversy with some world leaders choosing not to attend in protest over the country’s poor human rights record.
Similar concerns have been raised ahead of the 2018 World Cup about the high levels of racism amongst Russian football fans, a problem FIFA has acknowledged will be hard to solve.
Putin said Russia had a big task preparing for the tournament and would respond promptly to any comments from FIFA.
Additional reporting by Dmitriy Rogovitskiy in Moscow; Writing by Jack Stubbs, editing by Pritha Sarkar