In response to political pressure across the globe from those who want to see FIFA strip Russia of the 2018 World Cup, soccer's international governing body has issued a statement that says the tournament can "achieve a positive change."
The statement comes shortly after Russia faced international criticism in relation to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine on July 17.
"As a world governing body of football FIFA takes its responsibility in governing football seriously and we support any peaceful and democratic debate," read the statement. "FIFA deplores any form of violence and will continue to use its tournaments to promote dialogue, understanding and peace among peoples.
"History has shown so far that boycotting sport events or a policy of isolation or confrontation are not the most effective ways to solve problems. The hosting of the FIFA World Cup with the global attention it attracts can be a powerful catalyst for constructive dialogue between people and governments, helping to bring positive social developments. The FIFA World Cup unites teams and nations from all over the world, from the qualifiers to the final competition in a spirit of fair play and respect.
"FIFA is convinced that, through football, particularly the FIFA World Cup and its international spotlight, we can achieve positive change in the world, but football cannot be seen as a solution for all issues, particularly those related to world politics. We have seen that the FIFA World Cup can be a force for good and FIFA believes this will be the case for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia."
In the wake of the MH17 incident, Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, have faced criticism and pressure from nations and public figures around the world. The 2018 World Cup became part of the conversation on Friday, as European Union officials reached a preliminary agreement on economic sanctions against Russia.
"If Putin doesn’t actively cooperate on clearing up the plane crash, the soccer World Cup in Russia in 2018 is unimaginable," Peter Beuth, the interior minister of the German state of Hesse, told Bild.
Despite the debate, Russia is proceeding as planned with its World Cup preparations. The country has announced a $20 billion budget for building and renovating the 12 stadiums and other construction projects associated with the first World Cup to be held in Eastern Europe.
"FIFA has stated many times that sport should be outside politics," Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said in a separate statement. "Hosting an event like this, we're doing it for athletes from all over the world, for footballers, for the fans."