Two days before Russia take on Germany in Dortmund in a qualifier for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, the President of the Russian Football Association, Vitaliy Mutko, paid a visit to the Home Of FIFA in Zurich and met with FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter. Afterwards Mutko took the time to speak to FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Herr Mutko, what brings you to the Home of FIFA today?
Vitaliy Mutko: I’m on my way to Germany but I decided to take the opportunity to pay a short visit to President Blatter in Zurich. We discussed several issues relating to the development of football in Russia including, among other things, the prospect of Russia hosting a major FIFA tournament sometime in the near future.
Russia take on Germany on Saturday in a meeting of the two heavyweights from UEFA Group 4. How do you view Russia's chances in that game?
Well, Germany are one of the top teams in world football so, naturally, they are the team to beat in our group. However, both sides have a good chance of winning on Saturday. Despite having a very young team, Russia have come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years. Still, I would prefer not to make any predictions for the game.
Does Russia’s success at UEFA EURO 2008 (where they reached the semi-final only to lose to eventual tournament winner’s Spain) prove that the national team is on the right path?
Indeed it does. Our team is comprised of very young players whose average age is only 25-and-a-half, and we’re adding even younger members to our squad all the time. The future looks rosy and in Guus Hiddink we have a very good coach. The recent performances reflect the advances and developments that have been taking place in Russian football. We intend to continue restricting the number of foreign players in our domestic league to allow younger Russian players the chance to come through. Currently teams are allowed seven foreign players per team but, as of next year, we want to reduce this number down to six.
In doing so, you would be supporting the ‘6+5 rule’ proposed by the FIFA President.
Absolutely. We’re a step ahead of others on this issue and actively enforce the rule. We support the President’s idea, which is in the spirit of the game and helps improves national identity. A sign of this development can be seen in the success of Zenit St. Petersburg, who won the UEFA Cup this year, and are one of the leading clubs in Europe. Six of their players came up through the youth ranks.
Russia are also acquitting themselves very well at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Brazil 2008. Have you been following the games?
Naturally, we have been watching the tournament closely and are extremely pleased that the team are doing so well out there. Futsal is very well established in Russia, especially in the Urals and Siberia, where it is a very popular sport. The future looks good.