Sports

FIFA and UEFA suspend nation from international football over war in Ukraine


Russian teams have been suspended from all international football, including qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup, as Moscow has been pushed towards pariah status in the sport following its invasion of Ukraine.

The world football body, FIFA, and the European authority, UEFA, have banned Russian national teams and clubs from participating in their competitions “until further notice”. Russia’s men’s national team was due to play the World Cup qualifiers in just three weeks.

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“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all those affected in Ukraine,” FIFA and UEFA said in a joint statement.

The high-profile sanction involving sport and politics – unheard of 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 this was necessary to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all participants”.

Denying Russia a place on the international stage would be a financial and psychological blow to the country, while tarnishing its image as an elite sporting power.

FIFA’s decision excluded Russia from the World Cup ahead of qualifying play on March 24. Poland had already refused to play their scheduled game against Russia.

UEFA also eliminated the last remaining Russians in European club competitions this season, Spartak Moscow, from the second-tier Europa League. Spartak’s scheduled opponent on March 10-17, Germany’s Leipzig, will advance directly to the quarter-finals, UEFA have announced.

Russia now faces the kind of isolation experienced by Yugoslav teams in 1992 after the outbreak of war in the Balkans and by South African teams and athletes in the 1970s and 1980s during the apartheid era of racial segregation and discrimination.

Decisions by FIFA and UEFA can generally be challenged on appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

It was not immediately clear how the IOC’s request to sporting bodies will affect Russian NHL hockey players and tennis players, including top Daniil Medvedev, in Grand Slam, ATP and WTA tournaments outside of Russia. authority of the International Tennis Federation.

The IOC also went directly after President Vladimir Putin, who made the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics a personal project. Putin’s Gold Olympic Order, awarded in 2001, has been withdrawn, the IOC said in a statement.

The Olympic body’s call also applied to athletes and officials from Belarus, which encouraged Russia’s invasion by allowing its territory to be used to station troops and launch military attacks.

The IOC said it acted “with a heavy heart”, but noted that the impact of the war on Ukrainian sports and athletes who can no longer compete outweighs the potential harm to athletes from Russia and Belarus.

It was not an outright ban by the IOC, nor did it specifically suspend the National Olympic Committees of Russia and Belarus.

Where exclusion was “not possible on short notice for organizational or legal reasons”, teams from Russia and Belarus would have to compete as neutral athletes without a national flag, anthem or symbol, including at future Games Winter Paralympics in Beijing.

Russian Olympic committee chief Stanislav Pozdnyakov said in a statement “there is only one comment – we categorically disagree”, adding that it would help national federations to challenge “decisions discriminatory”.

Sporting bodies across Europe had already moved against Russia on Monday by refusing to host or play against teams from the country.

Finland wants the Russian hockey team banned from the men’s world championships it will host in May, the Swiss football federation has said its women’s team will not face Russia in July in the European championship, and German football club Schalke said it had decided to end its long partnership with Gazprom.

At the World Cup, Russia’s potential future opponents, Sweden and the Czech Republic, joined Poland saying they would refuse to enter the pitch.

The World Cup is due to start on November 21 in Qatar.

FIFA had attempted to compromise on Sunday by suggesting Russia play at neutral venues without its flag or anthem and under the name of the Russian Football Union.

This matched the sanctions imposed by the CAS in December 2020 to punish Russia for state-sponsored doping and a cover-up of cheating, and applied to last year’s Tokyo Olympics and this year’s Winter Games in Beijing. .

Polish Football Association president Cezary Kulesza said on Sunday it was “completely unacceptable” that FIFA had not immediately expelled Russia from World Cup qualifiers and said Poland “don’t was not interested in participating in this game of appearances”.

Another future opponent, Albania, also said on Sunday that they would not play against Russia in any sport. Russia and Albania are due to meet twice in June as part of the UEFA Nations League football tournament.

In hockey, the sport’s governing body has come under pressure from Finland and Switzerland to ban Russia and Belarus, both due to play in the world championships in May in Helsinki and Tampere.

Finnish Hockey Association president Harri Nummela said in a statement on Monday that he had held talks with the Zurich-based IIHF to exclude the two countries from the sport internationally. ___

AP Global Soccer Writer Rob Harris in London contributed.

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