Alex Livesey/FIFA—Getty Images
By Benjamin Snyder
September 2, 2014

Russia’s hosting of the 2018 World Cup faces a slew of challenges including poor infrastructure, human rights abuses and travel difficulties. But there’s another problem looming: A possible Cold War-like boycott of the event.

At least, that’s a possibility being pushed by some European diplomats, according to The Financial Times. They are looking into suspending Russia from “high-profile international cultural, economic or sporting events,” which would include the World Cup.

Although the idea is merely a trail balloon at this point, it comes ahead of the European Commission’s debate on Wednesday about placing additional economic sanctions on Russia because of its continued incursions into Ukraine. The sanctions would include a ban against Russian defense and energy companies making use of European capital markets. A previous round cracked down on business by Russia’s state-owned banks.

The United States, of course, has already implemented a series of economic sanctions.

The potential boycott of the World Cup comes with some notable back story. In 1980, for example, the United States boycotted the Olympic Games in Moscow after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan a year earlier. In response, Eastern bloc countries boycotted the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

But FIFA, the governing body for soccer, has already said it would not support a new host for the 2018 games. After Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine by suspected pro-Russian rebels, FIFA announced that “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.”

Instead, the statement continued that such an event could help foster peace among nations. “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,” FIFA said.

Of course, the push for a World Cup boycott comes four years before the actual start of the planned tournament. A lot can change between now and then.

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