Gary Lineker has moved to defend himself against charges of hypocrisy after being confirmed as co-host for the 2018 World Cup finals draw in Moscow next month.
The former England striker, who now works as a sports presenter for the BBC and BT, has been a staunch critic of world governing body FIFA, accusing it of behaving like a dictatorship with a “nauseating” level of “corruption”.
But Lineker was quick to insist he will continue to hold the governing body to account despite being invited to host the December 1 event alongside Russian sports journalist Maria Komandnaya.
Responding to a tweet from a journalist who referenced his record as a “sharp FIFA critic”, Lineker responded: “And still will be when necessary. I’m hosting the draw for a World Cup that I’ve watched all my life, played in twice, won its Golden boot and will present for @BBCSport for the 6th time next summer. I just wish I could still play in it. Doesn’t make it a political endorsement.”
Lineker has also described the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar as “ludicrous”, and in May 2015 he responded to Sepp Blatter’s re-election as FIFA president by tweeting: “The only way this revolting organisation will change is if the major football federations walk out.”
Lineker and Komandnaya will be aided at the draw in Moscow’s State Kremlin Palace by eight draw assistants, one of whom will be the former USSR World Cup star Nikita Simonyan.
In a FIFA statement, Lineker said: “As a player, I was fortunate enough to take part in the World Cup finals on two occasions.
“It is quite special to be involved in yet another tournament – now on the stage, unveiling the results of the draw. I have been on the other side, waiting to find out my opponents, and I know how exciting this occasion is.”