UEFA president Michel Platini has said he is fed up with politicians calling for a boycott of the 2018 World Cup in Russia over Moscow’s actions towards Ukraine.
Platini said he opposes any boycotts in sports, calling it “easy” for two US senators to have asked FIFA to remove the tournament from Russia.
“I’m starting to get fed up with people who are asking for boycotts,” Platini said when asked at a news conference about possible action against Russia.
The Frenchman serves with Russian colleagues on UEFA and FIFA executive committees, including Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko on the board of football’s world governing body. Ukrainian official Hrihoriy Surkis is a UEFA vice president.
“It isn’t normal to ask people who train all year round to boycott an event,” Platini said. “There are many people who don’t like sports who ask these types of things.”
He recalled that some European politicians refused to attend 2012 European Championship matches in Ukraine in protest at then-president Viktor Yanukovych’s government.
“But in the final it seemed that I saw the prime minister of Spain and the prime minister of Italy,” Platini said of the decisive match in Kiev which Spain won 4-0. “Let politicians take care of politics. Sports needs to be a place that brings people together.”
The former France great said he resisted calls from intellectuals at home to snub the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, which was then ruled by a military regime.
“It’s better to go there and express your opinion,” said Platini, who played at two further World Cups. “That will be better heard than anything else.”
In Ukraine, two clubs in the Crimea region – Sevastopol and Tavriya Simferopol - have expressed interest in switching to the Russian Premier League for next season.
Platini said UEFA has not been approached for a decision by member federations in Ukraine and Russia, though UEFA could be asked to approve the transfer when the current season ends in May.
“During these couple of months there will be negotiations under way between them,” Platini said. “We might have a new government. Many things can happen. Things can change in many ways.”