Coaches from some of the world’s top teams have played down chances of a sporting boycott of Vladimir Putin’s showpiece 2018 football World Cup as a penalty for stoking the crisis in Ukraine.
Leaders of the 28-nation European Union earlier this month asked the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, to draw up new sanctions in response to claims that Russia has sent troops into neighbouring Ukraine.
A European source told AFP that the World Cup boycott idea was in a “working document discussed by the member states” detailing options for the economic sanctions, “but as a possibility for later on, not now”.
But Spain coach Vicente del Bosque, speaking at a post-2014 World Cup technical conference at Saint Petersburg poured cold water on the chances of sanctions.
“The idea of a boycott of the 2018 World Cup in Russia will never garner support from the family of football coaches,” Del Bosque said.
“We’re trying to unite people, not to separate them. We’re athletes. We’re not going in for politics. We support all those who play football.”
Francois Blaquart, technical director of the French Football Federation, told AFP he does not believe in the possibility of a World Cup boycott.
“I don’t believe it for a moment,” he said.
Germany coach Joachim Loew, who guided his team to World Cup victory in Brazil in July, refused to be drawn on the question of sanctions, adding that Russia coach Fabio Capello would prepare a competitive squad for their home tournament.
“I have no intention of commenting on any of the politicians’ calls and statements,” Loew told the press.
“Russia has a great desire and every possibility to hold the World Cup at a very high level.
“I have no doubts that Capello will prepare a very strong team for the next World Cup.”
Under long-term plans circulated among European diplomats alongside proposals for immediate economic sanctions, Moscow could also face suspension from Formula One races and other sporting events.
Sochi, the recent host city of the Winter Olympics, is set to host a Formula 1 GP on October 12, the race one of the centrepiece of Putin’s plan to make Russia a globally-respected host of international sporting events. – Agence France-Presse