Russia will still play host to the 2018 world cup, according to Fifa president Gianni Infantino.
Following the corruption scandal that hit Fifa, Russia’s bid to host the world cup looked dubious at best and bids to host the 2018 and 2022 showpiece were to be reexamined.
Russian sport has been the subject of an investigation into allegations of widespread doping, while human rights issues and regional instability have also prompted concerns about the location of FIFA’s next showpiece event.
But Infantino, visiting the country after being elected as Sepp Blatter’s successor in February, has insisted the tournament will go ahead as planned and is determined to ensure it is the “best World Cup ever”.
“The World Cup 2018 will take place in Russia of course,” he said. “This decision has been taken six years ago almost.
“It is now my job as FIFA president, together with [Russian Sports] Minister [Vitaly] Mutko and all the Russian population actually to make sure we deliver the best World Cup ever here in Russia.”
Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova has been suspended from the sport after testing positive for banned substance meldonium, but Mutko is adamant the football spectacle will not be affected by concerns about performance-enhancing drugs.
“You know there has been a lot of talk about meldonium and doping issues, I would like to say that this in no way affects preparations for the World Cup and will not affect it, there is no doubt about this,” he said.
“Secondly, football – in the last few years we collected over two thousand tests from our footballers and overall there were only three instances of violations. So it is not at all typical in football.”