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Page last updated at 17:09 GMT, Tuesday, 19 October 2010 18:09 UK

Russia deny criticism of England 2018 World Cup bid

The Russia 2018/2022 World Cup bid team
Sorokin (second from right) is chief executive of the Russia 2018/2022 bid

The leader of Russia's 2018 World Cup bid claims disparaging comments he made about rivals England in a newspaper interview were "lost in translation".

Alexei Sorokin criticised high crime rates and drinking habits of young people in London, adding that English football had a problem with racism.

"Mr Sorokin regrets if his statements have led to an erroneous interpretation and understanding" said his spokesman.

Governing body Fifa has strict rules prohibiting criticism of rival bids.

The England 2018 bid team is considering its position over the comments.

Russian paper Sport Express reported Sorokin to have said: "We do not enter into squabbles.

"It's no secret, for example, that London has the highest crime rate when compared with other European cities, and the highest level of alcohol consumption among young people."

He then referred to Peter Odemwingie, the former Lokomotiv Moscow forward who was the subject of racial abuse before and after he left the Russian club for West Brom.

This context went lost, in particular in translations. Mr Sorokin regrets if his statements may therefore have led to such an erroneous interpretation and understanding

Sorokin's spokesman

Sorokin said the burning of a US flag at Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium on the same day as the Lokomotiv fans celebrated Peter Odemwingie's sale with a banner showing a banana and the message "Thanks West Brom" constituted "inciting ethnic hatred".

"We were aware of [the flag burning] but did not focus on this," explained Sorokin, who also criticised the British media for their coverage of Russia's bid.

"We could start a conversation about the lack of tolerance and inciting ethnic hatred by English fans, but do not behave like the aunt in the kitchen criticising our neighbours.

"The banner was not a racist. It was directed against a particular irrelevant football player."

After being alerted to the comments, representatives of London Mayor Boris Johnson contacted Sorokin's office on Tuesday to demand an explanation.

Johnson later wrote on his Twitter page: "Can't believe Russian slurs over 2018 bid. Pls tell them crime is down & London's the most tolerant city in the world."

Sorokin's spokesman responded: "The question was about in which ways and tonality media in different countries cover the current 2018/2022 Fifa World Cup bid activities.

"Mr Sorokin pointed out that Russian media refrained from highlighting negative aspects in other countries.

"His replies were rhetorical questions. By way of illustration, he was using a metaphor in the sense that such mutual highlighting of negative aspects was comparable to bickering housewives in the communal wash house, raising a fuss over everything and speaking badly about each other.

"This context went lost, in particular in translations."

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