GENEVA (AFP) – Russian teams were suspended on Monday from all international football, including the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, as Moscow was pushed towards pariah status in the sport over its invasion of Ukraine..
The International Football Association Board (FIFA) and the European body (UEFA) banned Russian teams and clubs from their competitions “until further notice.” The Russian men’s national team was due to play the World Cup qualifiers in just three weeks.
“Football is united here and in full solidarity with all those affected in Ukraine,” FIFA and UEFA said in a joint statement.
The high-level sanction involving sport and politics – something we haven’t seen in decades – came after the International Olympic Committee pushed dozens of sports governing bodies to exclude Russian athletes and officials from international events.
The IOC said the measure was necessary “to protect the integrity of world sporting competitions and the safety of all participants.”
Depriving Russia of its place on the international stage could deal a financial and psychological blow to the state, as well as tarnish its image as an elite sporting power.
FIFA’s move excluded Russia from the World Cup ahead of qualifying matches on March 24th. Poland had already refused to play its scheduled match against Russia.
UEFA also removed the last remaining Russian players in European club competitions this season, Spartak Moscow, from the Europa League second tier. The European Football Association (UEFA) said that Spartak’s rival scheduled for March 10-17, Germany’s Leipzig, will qualify directly for the quarter-finals.
Russia now faces the kind of isolation that Yugoslav teams suffered in 1992 after the outbreak of war in the Balkans and by South African teams and athletes during the apartheid era of apartheid and apartheid.
South Africa was suspended by FIFA in 1964 and expelled in 1976 for apartheid, then reinstated in 1992. Yugoslavia was excluded from the 1992 European Championship at short notice, a day after the United Nations approved sanctions against the war-torn country. They were banned from the 1994 World Cup qualifiers, before exiting as separate nations.
FIFA and UEFA decisions can usually be appealed on appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne. The Russian Football Association said in a statement that it “reserves the right to appeal” against the decision.
“I feel sorry for my children,” said Russia coach Valery Karpin. “They used to dream of playing in the World Cup. Now their hope is gone.”
Hockey followed suit, with internationals and NHL officials also sanctioning Russia.
The International Ice Hockey Federation has banned Russia and its close ally Belarus from competitions at all age levels and said it was moving the 2023 World Junior Championships out of Siberia.
The NHL also condemned the invasion, suspended all commercial transactions in Russia and ruled out the possibility of holding events there in the near future.
“We remain concerned about the welfare of players from Russia, who play in the NHL on behalf of their NHL clubs, and not on behalf of Russia,” the league said. “We understand that they and their families are being put in a very difficult situation.”
It was not immediately clear how the decisions would affect Russian tennis players, including top seed Daniil Medvedev, at Grand Slam, ATP and WTA tournaments outside the authority of the International Tennis Federation.
The IOC also went right after President Vladimir Putin, who turned the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics into a personal project. Putin’s Olympic Gold Medal, awarded in 2001, has been withdrawn, and The International Olympic Committee said in a statement.
The Olympic call also applies to athletes and officials from Belarus, which instigated the Russian invasion by allowing its territory to be used to deploy troops and launch military attacks.
The International Olympic Committee said it acted with “a sad heart”, but noted that the impact of the war on sports and Ukrainian athletes who are now unable to participate in competitions outweighs the potential harm to athletes from Russia and Belarus.
It was not a blanket ban by the International Olympic Committee, which also did not specifically suspend the National Olympic Committees of Russia and Belarus.
The IOC said that the exclusion “was not possible at short notice for regulatory or legal reasons” that teams from Russia and Belarus must compete as neutral players without a national flag, anthem or symbols, including at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.
“There is only one comment – we are categorically against it,” Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov said in a statement, adding that it would help national federations challenge “discriminatory provisions.”
Sports bodies across Europe had already taken action against Russia on Monday by refusing to host or play against their teams.
Finland wants to ban Russia’s hockey team from the men’s world championships it will host in May, the Swiss Football Association said its women’s team will not play with Russia in July in the European Championship, and German football club Schalke 04 said it had decided to end its long matches. Partnership with Gazprom.
At the World Cup, Sweden and the Czech Republic, Russia’s future rivals, joined Poland saying they would refuse to enter the stadium. The World Cup is scheduled to start on November 21 in Qatar.
FIFA tried to compromise on Sunday by proposing that Russia play in neutral stadiums without its flag and anthem and under the name “The Football Association of Russia”.
This is in line with sanctions imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in December 2020 to punish Russia for state-backed doping and cover-up for cheating, and were implemented at last year’s Tokyo Olympics and this year’s Winter Games in Beijing.
Polish Football Association president Cesare Kuleza said on Sunday that it was “totally unacceptable” that FIFA would not immediately expel Russia from the World Cup qualifiers and said Poland was “not interested in participating in this appearance match”.
Albania, another future competitor, said it would not play against Russia in any sport. Russia and Albania will meet twice in June in the UEFA Nations League.
In hockey, the sports board has come under pressure from Finland and Switzerland to ban Russia and Belarus, due to their participation in the world championships in May in Helsinki and Tampere.
In a statement on Monday, Finnish Hockey Federation president Harri Numila said he has held talks with the Zurich-based International Hockey Federation to exclude the two countries from the sport internationally.
Meanwhile, World Rugby has suspended Russia and Belarus from all international events and cross-border rugby club, and suspended Russian rugby union membership.
These moves effectively ended the Russian men’s team’s bid to qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France – the men finished fifth in the six-team European Rugby Championship – and the women’s Sevens team’s hopes of qualifying for the Rugby World Cup in the south. Africa this year. Women are third in the ongoing World Sevens Series. ___
This was contributed by writer Rob Harris, world football writer for The Associated Press in London, and hockey writer Stephen Winno in Wassington, DC.
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