Russia, Ukraine might be kept apart in 2018: FIFA

Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:49pm EDT
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By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia and Ukraine might be put into different groups at the 2018 World Cup finals if the Ukrainians qualify and relations between the two countries do not improve, FIFA said on Tuesday.

However, FIFA denied a comment attributed to President Sepp Blatter, who was quoted by the R-Sport agency as saying "you can be sure about this" in reply to a question about whether the two countries would be kept apart.

"The President did not say that they would be kept apart or that such a decision has been made. It seems (there was) a translation mistake," said FIFA in a statement to Reuters.

"What the FIFA president actually said was that, in any qualifying campaign, the aim is always to avoid problems as was done in the past between teams where high tensions can be anticipated.

"On Ukraine/Russia situation, he said that we have to see how this evolves but, if the geopolitical situation were to remain as it is now, when it comes to the final competition then FIFA could decide that the respective teams would not be in the same group."

Blatter, who was on a visit to Moscow for the unveiling of Russia's official World Cup emblem, said politics should not mix with sport following calls to move the 2018 tournament to a different country due to Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.

"A boycott never achieves anything and does not have a positive effect. FIFA is fully supporting the World Cup in Russia,” said the 78-year-old in an interview given to ITAR-news and R-Sport.

"When we received letters from North America, we answered that this is football. We believe in the country (Russia) and their government.   Continued...

Russian soldiers watch Ukrainian servicemen play soccer at Belbek airport in the Crimea region March 4, 2014. REUTERS/Baz Ratner