One month before the start of the 2018 World Cup, FIFA is warning Russia to control the behaviour of its fans or risk being banned from future FIFA tournaments. Reading from a speech at a press conference today at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, President Gianni Infantino said:
"As you know, the world's greatest sporting event - the FIFA World Cup starts in Russia in just over a month's time and this is a tournament which many football and sporting enthusiasts look forward to every four years. No other sporting spectacle, not even the Olympic Games captivates the world like the FIFA World Cup."
"Even people who are not sports or football fans watch the World Cup on TV when it is broadcast even if they are not acquainted with the rules of the game or how it is actually played. The World Cup is an event that fascinates the globe for one month in the summer every quadrennial. The only countries which may be exceptions to this grand spectacle might be India and Pakistan which are obsessed with cricket. It is because of the World Cup that people got to know legendary players of the game like Pele, Maradona, the late Johan Cruyff and Franz Beckenbauer."
He went on:
"Even in more recent times, it was during the 1998 World Cup that we all saw the genius of the great Zinedine Zidane who, despite blotting his copybook early on against Saudi Arabia with an ugly stomping incident which got him suspended for two matches, still went on to score two goals in the final to help the French to their first and only World Cup triumph to date. Even though he went on to end his World Cup career on a sour note in 2006 with that ugly head-butt incident, he has since gone on to become the successful coach of the great Real Madrid team. But I must comment on the host country, Russia. The biggest country in the world is getting ready to host thirty-one other teams and their supporters for one month starting from June 14 and ending on July 15 and it promises to be the most exciting month in the sporting calendar this year. Unfortunately, in recent times Russian football fans have gained notoriety for their racist attitude towards players of African descent and this was most evident when racist chants were directed at French National player Paul Pogba during a supposedly friendly international in St. Petersburg back in March."
The President proceeded:
"I will have to let the Russian Football Union know that such despicable behaviour will not be tolerated and if it continues and we see the ugly side of football this summer from Russian fans, the RFU will incur a heavy fine from FIFA and Russian national teams of all age levels including women's teams, will face the prospect of being suspended indefinitely from future FIFA tournaments."
"Be warned, there is absolutely no place for racism in football or any sport for that matter and if the RFU cannot tell the Russian fans to behave themselves and accept people for who they are regardless of skin colour, then I am afraid that they will have to learn the hard way and accept the punishments that are meted out to them by FIFA until they realize that, just like oil and water, racism and football cannot mix."