Ukraine considers 2018 World Cup boycott, Blatter fires back

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With every month that draws us nearer to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, the word “boycott” seems to spring up every once in a while. The frequency of the word also seems to be slowly increasing.

For a myriad of reasons, countries have explored the idea of a boycott to make a statement, keep their players safe, or both.

Ukrainian officials have recently floated the idea of boycotting the 2018 World Cup in Russia, citing the ongoing conflict between the countries. However, they’re also anticipating the conflict ending before the qualifying draw is made in St. Petersburg on July 25. But if things don’t cool off by then, the plug could be pulled on Ukraine’s trip to the event.

“It’s probably the easiest thing to say I favor boycotts,” Ukrainian federation president Hrigory Surkis told The Associated Press. “Especially when you can see that there are thousands of civilians who are affected by the situation, where many people have been killed.”

“If we follow and comply with the Minsk agreements, then there will be no necessity to bring this matter to the agenda,” said Surkis. The agreement Surkis is referring to is a ceasefire drafted last month that has UEFA considering lifting the separation of Russian and Ukranian clubs and international squads in all competitions as soon as the 2016 European Championships.

The comments by Surkis were following up those made by Ukranian president Petro Poroshenko last week, where he also favored a boycott and said the option “needs to be discussed.” “Let’s wait, let’s not be pessimistic,” Surkis said as a follow-up. “I am optimistic because this is not only an issue of peace for Ukraine. It’s about peace for whole Europe and for the whole world.”

But FIFA president Sepp Blatter, speaking at the UEFA congress today, slammed the idea of a boycott, not naming any countries in particular but addressing the issue as a wide-reaching idea. “Football should be united,” Blatter said. “Sport should be united when it comes to boycotts. Boycotts have never had any results.”

“A World Cup in Russia will be able to stabilize all the situations in this region of Europe,” Blatter said. “I am sure that football is stronger than any other movement.”

Many have floated the idea of boycotting the 2022 World Cup in Qatar as well. With the mix of human rights concerns, corruption allegations, and FIFA’s mad scramble to accommodate a tiny country not suited to hold such an event has a number of countries seething at the initial decision to hand them the bid. A report from November in The Telegraph mentioned that the English FA was considering the “nuclear” option of a boycott, and that it was possible that should one country decide to refrain from going, a number could follow suit.