Russia target foreign football stars, Infantino visit concludes

Russia should base its national football team on domestic players, but foreign stars are welcome to join if they accept Russian citizenship, the country's sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, said Wednesday.

"Russian sports should focus on our own resources, on our own schools. This is the most important area, and we will do this," Mutko told a press conference with FIFA president Gianni Infantino.

However, "we are an open, democratic state and, of course, we will never close our doors to people who want to live in Russia and adopt Russian citizenship to play for Russian national teams or work with them," Mutko said in comments carried by the Interfax news agency.

Last November, Russia gave citizenship to Brazilian star goalkeeper Guilherme Marinato. He currently plays for Lokomotiv Moscow and made his Russia debut in a friendly game in March.

Infantino agreed with the principle, saying he has both Italian and Swiss citizenship.

Infantino was in Russia to tour facilities for the 2018 World Cup. It was his first visit to the country since becoming president of the global football authority two months ago.

"I have seen the progress Russia made and although I have not yet staged a FIFA World Cup I was involved in the organisation of four European Championships,” Infantino said.

“As such, I know what enormous work is behind the staging of a FIFA World Cup and can judge what I see. I am very pleased with the commitment expressed by every stakeholder, especially Minister Mutko and the Russian government, involved in the preparation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and next year’s FIFA Confederations Cup.

“What I have seen makes me very confident that we will organise the greatest event in football as the best ever in history.

On leaving Russia, Infantino set off for a two-day visit to 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar.

Last update: Wed, 20/04/2016 - 21:03

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