ST. PETERSBURG, July 24. /TASS/. The decision of FC Zenit St. Petersburg manager Andre Villas-Boas not to let Brazilian forward Hulk join the squad of assistants at the much-anticipated 2018 World Cup Preliminary Draw on Saturday is surprising, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Friday.
FIFA announced earlier on Friday that former captain of the Russian national football team Alexey Smertin will take the spot of Zenit FC striker Hulk in the team of Draw’s assistants "due to the Brazilian’s club commitments with FC Zenit."
FC Zenit is scheduled to clash with FC Ural on Sunday in Yekaterinburg.
"It was a surprise to me," Mutko said. "All was agreed. We did not pressure upon anyone and talked to the club’s president. But Villas-Boas is a very fastidious coach and I understand his principles."
"He thinks that players should be together," Mutko added.
He said that the Preliminary Draw ceremony would have kept Hulk just for an hour and expressed regret that the Brazilian player would not "come down into history."
Hulk told TASS earlier he was thankful to the World Cup organisers for the invitation to assist at the Preliminary Draw ceremony and that he regretted he would not be able to take part in the show.
The draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Preliminary Competition will be held at the historic Konstantinovsky Palace, a stronghold of Russia’s rich culture located on the Gulf of Finland’s stunning shoreline. It used to serve in the 18th century as one of the residences of Russia’s imperial family.
A total of 208 nations have signed up for the Preliminary Draw, which is the first major kick-off event ahead of the global tournament itself.