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10 Oct, 2023 14:38

UEFA backtracks on readmitting Russian soccer teams

Senior football figures in Russia have responded with dismay to the governing body’s policy reversal
UEFA backtracks on readmitting Russian soccer teams

European football’s governing body, UEFA, announced on Tuesday that it has shelved a proposal to allow Russia’s under-17 team to play in European Championship qualifying matches, claiming that it would be too problematic logistically.

UEFA had previously suggested it was considering easing a blanket ban on Russia to allow its male and female youth teams to compete in European competitions, arguing that children should not be punished for the actions of adults.

However, a UEFA spokesperson said after an executive meeting on Tuesday that the “agenda point was withdrawn as no technical solution to allow Russian teams to play could be found.”

About a dozen football federations – including from England, Ireland, Latvia, and Lithuania – had declared that their teams would refuse to participate in matches against Russians if UEFA opted to permit their return to tournaments.

Russian football teams have been suspended from major competitions by UEFA and global counterpart FIFA since the start of Moscow’s military action in Ukraine last year.

“We won’t play Russia in any category age group as long as there is a war,” Debbie Hewitt, chair of England’s Football Association (FA), stated on Tuesday. “We felt very strong in that. That is a position we retain.” 

Vyascheslav Koloskov, honorary president of the Russian Football Union (RFU) and former vice president of FIFA, said that Tuesday’s decision from UEFA was a “complete surprise.” 

“Just this morning I explained that overturning the decision on admission is impossible, because UEFA is a serious organization. Every decision they make is thoughtful and based on real, practical factors,” the 82-year-old said, according to RIA Novosti.

Koloskov claimed that the only conclusion to be drawn was that “the UEFA executive committee must be dissolved.” 

Former Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov also expressed his dismay at the UEFA decision, telling RIA Novosti that “these organizations have simply become very weak. They are all subject to external influence.” 

Russian national team head coach Valery Karpin, meanwhile, said his country would be “allowed” to return to international competition once the Ukraine conflict ends. “I hope that the [military operation] will end and then we will be allowed in,” he told reporters, according to RIA Novosti.

Since the start of the sanctions, Russia’s men’s national football team has played eight friendly matches. Karpin’s team is scheduled to play Cameroon in Moscow on Thursday and Kenya in Antalya, Türkiye, on Monday.

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