Head of 2018 World Cup refuses to accept racism is a problem in Russia

Manchester City play behind closed doors against CSKA tonight because of racism issues

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The Independent Football

The head of the Russia 2018 World Cup bid has laughed off suggestions that the country has a problem with racism, ahead of CSKA Moscow’s Champions League tie against Manchester City, which will be played behind closed doors because of fans’ alleged violence and use of racist banners.

Alexei Sorokin, in the Russian capital to attend Fifa’s inspection of the Luzhniki Stadium’s reconstruction for the 2018 World Cup, dismissed suggestions that racism, events in Ukraine and the contentious awarding of the tournament to Russia created unwelcome controversy that the country’s football authorities should be concerned about.

“Controversy about what?” he said. “We are absolutely certain that we will stage a remarkable tournament. That’s the focus of our effort. I don’t even understand what controversy you are talking about. The Fifa Exco [executive committee] has recently reconfirmed our concept, which gives answer to many questions you may have. We don’t have any questions.”

When asked if the concern about Russia felt by other football nations was therefore unfair, he laughed. “What would you like me to say?” he replied.

Though City’s Yaya Youré was racially abused during the club’s 2-1 win here last October, Russia’s denial that racism is a problem was apparent again when racist gestures made during Russia’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Moldova prompted no controversy last week. Sorokin initially refused to answer questions on racism outside the Luzhniki, which is being gutted for its rebuild as the 81,000-capacity 2018 World Cup final venue. But he eventually made a grudging acknowledgement to admit there was a problem. “The Russian Football Union is making all the efforts to eradicate these things,” Sorokin said.

The only omissions from City’s travelling party were Frank Lampard, who was carried off with a thigh injury against Spurs on Saturday, and Samir Nasri, who is recovering from groin surgery.