FIFA bans Russia from World Cup qualifiers

FIFA, the world soccer governing body, has decided to impose an indefinite ban on Russia and its teams, kicking the country out of qualification for the 2022 World Cup just weeks before it takes part in one of Europe’s last places in the tournament.

FIFA’s decision, to be announced on Monday evening, came a day after the organization came under fire for not going far enough in punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. On Sunday, FIFA proposed a series of sanctions against Russia – including a temporary ban on its name, flag and national anthem, and a ban on hosting international matches – amid Demands from several national federations to work stronger.

Initial pressure to block Russia came from Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic, which faced the prospect of playing Russia in World Cup qualifiers. Other countries and officials, including federations in France, England and United StateSoon, they said that they would not play against Russia under any circumstances.

Officials from UEFA will join FIFA in issuing and honoring the ban.

The Ukrainian team, which is set to play Scotland in the World Cup play-off match, will remain in the competition.

FIFA and UEFA decided to ban Russia just hours after the International Olympic Committee called on international sports federations to ban Russian athletes and teams from all global sporting events where possible. Olympic officials said Russia violated a commitment – known as the Olympic Truce, signed before the start of the Beijing Winter Games and scheduled to take place during the Paralympic Games starting this week – by invading Ukraine.

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The direct consequence of the ban on Russia is that it will lose its place in the group of four teams to one of the last European places in the World Cup. Poland, which was due to play Russia in March, said it would refuse to play the match, a stance it repeated after FIFA announced its initial sanctions list on Sunday night. Sweden and the Czech Republic, the two teams that could have faced Russia in the final if the Russians beat Poland, issued the same warning.

Cesare Kuleza, president of the Polish Football Association, described FIFA’s initial decision not to expel Russia as “completely unacceptable”. He added in a post on Twitter: “We are not interested in participating in this game of appearance. Our position remains intact: the Polish national team will not play with Russia, regardless of the name of the team.”

The unlimited ban on Russia also extends to club teams, meaning that Spartak Moscow, the last remaining participant in a continental competition, will no longer be able to compete in the Europa League knockout match against Germany’s RB Leipzig. That match was already in doubt before Monday’s decision, with officials unsure how the Russian team would travel after UEFA issued a blanket ban on Russian flights to the 27-member confederation.

It remains unclear whether the decision to exclude Russia will face a challenge in the courts. Russia, as well as some of its athletes, have succeeded in recent years in combating exclusion from other events, including the Olympics, by mitigating penalties through appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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