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Pallbearers at Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands carry a coffin toward a hearse on July 23, 2014, during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. (PHIL NIJHUIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Pallbearers at Eindhoven airbase in the Netherlands carry a coffin toward a hearse on July 23, 2014, during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. (PHIL NIJHUIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

MH17: Russia’s World Cup dreams in doubt in angry Europe Add to ...

Could the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 spoil Russia’s World Cup party?

Russia is set to host the event in 2018 but some harsh words were being spoken about the hosts in western European capitals on Wednesday.

The Dutch soccer association said it wants to postpone discussion of participating in the event as an angry country mourned victims of the airliner shot down over Ukraine on a flight from Amsterdam last week.

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The association said in a statement it had received questions about playing in the 2018 World Cup in Russia but felt any debate should be delayed while the country observed a national day of mourning.

Citizens of the Netherlands made up two-thirds of the 298 people on board the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that was brought down last Thursday over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, where Kiev is struggling to quell a pro-Russian separatist rebellion.

The disaster has led to calls for strong sanctions against Russia even if it hurts the Dutch economy, opinion polls published on Wednesday showed.

“The association is well aware that a future World Cup in Russia will stir a lot of emotion among soccer lovers and the next of kin in the Netherlands,” the KNVB said.

Also on Wednesday in Germany, several senior lawmakers raised the possibility of stripping Russia of its right to host the World Cup and the national soccer federation said it was very worried about events.

The European Union has threatened to impose harsher economic sanctions on Russia, though on Tuesday ministers delayed action for a few days. But taking away Russia’s right to hold the soccer tournament might have a significantly greater impact than more economic sanctions, said Michael Fuchs, deputy head of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc in the German parliament.

“The FIFA football association should think about whether Moscow is an appropriate host if it can’t even guarantee safe airways,” Fuchs told Handelsblatt Online, adding that Germany and France could take over the tournament if needed.

Germany’s DFB football federation president Wolfgang Niersbach said Germany, which won the World Cup in Brazil this month, had very good relations with the Russian football association and the World Cup organisation committee.

“But we are watching with very great concern political events in Russia which could not be predicted at the time of the awarding of the World Cup in 2010,” he added in a statement which stopped short of backing Russia’s right to host.

FIFA said earlier this week it could not comment. Germany’s FIFA executive committee member, Theo Zwanziger, played down the possibility of moving the tournament and rejected any calls for a boycott.

German government spokesman Georg Streiter noted that the tournament is four years away.

“We have more pressing problems now than this,” he said.

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