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29 Sep, 2023 14:05

Ukraine issues ultimatum to UEFA

The European football body announced plans this week to reinstate Russian under-17 teams in international tournaments
Ukraine issues ultimatum to UEFA

Ukraine has called on European football’s governing body, UEFA, to reverse its decision to reinstate Russian under-17 teams in international competitions, and has said that it will boycott any events in which Russian teams are competing. The associations of both Poland and England have backed Kiev’s stance.

Earlier this week, UEFA announced that it planned to reinstate Russian under-17 teams to European competition “in the course of this season,” saying in a statement on Tuesday that “children should not be punished for actions whose responsibility lies exclusively with adults.”

All Russian football teams, at both club and international level, have been suspended from competition by UEFA since February 2022 following the onset of Moscow’s military action in Ukraine. UEFA also stripped Saint Petersburg of its hosting rights to the Champions League final in 2022, and also ended a sponsorship deal with Russian energy firm Gazprom.

The Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF) said after UEFA’s announcement that it “will not take part in any competition with the participation of Russian teams” and called on other UEFA member associations to follow suit.  The UAF added that it believes UEFA’s stance is “groundless” and adopted “in the midst of hostilities conducted by the Russian Federation.”

Kiev’s position was echoed by the football associations of both Poland and England. “I was surprised by yesterday’s statement from the UEFA Executive Committee,” the president of Poland’s Football Association, Cezary Kulesza, wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “If Russian national teams are allowed to participate in the competition, our national teams will not compete with them.” Kulesza further stated that “this is the only right decision.”

England’s Football Association also expressed its opposition to UEFA reinstating the Russian underage team to competition, telling AFP that “English teams will not be playing against Russia.” 

While UEFA said that a “generation of minors” were effectively being punished by the suspension of Russia from football competitions, its loosening of sanctions also comes with some caveats. Russian teams remain sanctioned from playing matches on Russian territory, while national symbols such as the country’s flag and national anthem are also barred.

UEFA’s annual European under-17 championship begins its qualification matches today for the event due to be held in Cyprus in May and June of 2024. Similarly, qualifiers for the Women’s under-17 event, due to be held in Sweden next year, begin in October.