The English 2018 World Cup bid team have signalled that they are now willing to withdraw the complaint they made to FIFA against the head of Russia’s World Cup bid, after receiving a grovelling (and possibly pre-emptive) apology from the Russian sports minister.
Whereas anyone who has ever had the misfortune of having to spend a prolonged period of time in London can instantly sympathise with the comments that Russia’s chief executive Alexei Sorokin made pertaining to the capital’s high crime rates and adolescent alcohol problems during an interview with Sport Express – the fact remains that it’s not the best idea to contravene FIFA’s rules about slagging off rival bidders whilst the bidding is still in process.
Hostilities between the two nations then escalated on Wednesday night after the Russian football’s Honorary, Vyacheslav Kolosov, dismissed England’s demand for an apology from Sorokin as both ‘primitive’ and ‘comical’:
“It’s a comical situation. The English are afraid of how badly their bid is going. Their journalists are provoking members of the committee, and they now say one of the members of our bidding team has spoken out against England in an improper manner.
I think it’s a raising of tensions, and also an attempt to in some way influence the work of our bidding team. These acts have little chance of success. Russia should not be afraid of sanctions. There won’t even be an investigation.
The behaviour of the English is absolutely primitive. Instead of talking about their own excellence and merits, they try to put off their opponents.”
Kolosov is not an official member of the Russian bid and therefore wasn’t liable to FIFA sanctioning, meaning that the English team couldn’t pursue an official apology.
Upon recognising that his country’s costly campaign was careening before his very eyes, Russia’s Minister for Sport Vitaly Mutko (who also sits on FIFA’s executive committee) broke ranks to issue a fairly anaemic public apology to his English counterparts over breakfast:
“I have great respect for the England bid and we have no desire to say we are better than any other bid. If there had been any misunderstanding I am ready to apologise for it.
I can’t control all the reports that are written. As our classics say, you shouldn’t read Bolshevik papers before lunch.
I have great respect for the England bid, we like England and we hope England likes Russia. There are two English Premier League games shown every weekend in Russia.”
That Sir, is the sound of your country’s bid hopes being flushed down the tуалет. Upon processing Mutko’s atonement, a spokesperson for England 2018 told the gathered press:
“Mr Mutko approached the England 2018 bid team with a genuine apology in an honourable manner. We, of course, accepted this apology and appreciate the gesture. We now wish to move on from this matter.”
Which, given the tedium of the last few days/weeks, is an honourable sentiment.