FIFA has been forced to reassure fans that Friday’s World Cup draw will not be rigged with hot and cold balls following claims by Sepp Blatter he had witnessed their use.
Football’s world governing body on Wednesday organised a behind-the-scenes tour of the auditorium that will stage the finals draw, featuring an explanation of how the event will unfold, including the use of red balls to denote seeded teams.
Two balls were drawn as an example, that of hosts Russia and another which turned out to contain Peru – arguably the least difficult opponent in their pot.
Fifa’s director of competitions, Chris Unger, was then asked about rumours of heated balls at previous draws, a conspiracy theory fuelled by Blatter last year when he said some at European level at been rigged in that way.
“There’s no truth to that,” Unger replied. “They’re all the same; they don’t feel any different, they don’t look any different, with the exception of the red balls, which are there for a purpose.
“It’s entirely random and by chance how the groups get formed at the end.”
Disgraced former Fifa president Blatter last year denied Argentina had been handed an easy draw at the last World Cup after they were pitted against Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“The draw was clean until the last detail,” the 80 year-old told Argentine publication La Nacion.
“I never touched the balls, which was something that others had to do. Of course, it can be signalled, by heating or cooling them.
“It’s technically possible. It did not happen in Fifa, but I witnessed draws at a European level in which it happened – but never in Fifa.
“It could have happened, but in my case it never did, ever.
“If you put the balls in the refrigerator before, a simple comparison between one and the other by touching them determines the cold and hot balls. By touching them, you already know what it is.”
Uefa branded Blatter’s claims “completely absurd”.