French football chief questions Russia’s right to appear at World Cup
The head of the French Football Federation (FFF) has suggested that Russia could be barred from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar in November and December as a consequence of the military operation in Ukraine.
Russia are currently scheduled to take on Poland in Moscow on March 24 in a one-game qualification semifinal. The winner will host the Czech Republic or Sweden five days later.
All three countries have announced that they will boycott scheduled or potential clashes with Russia.
FFF president Noel Le Graet has now said that he would not object to the 2018 World Cup hosts being denied a place at the competition altogether.
"The world of sport, and especially football, cannot remain neutral. I certainly would not oppose the expulsion of Russia," Le Graet told Le Parisien via France24 on Sunday.
"In these dramatic circumstances, how can one envisage playing football against this country?"
Twenty years after their maiden win at France '98, Les Bleus won their first World Cup title on foreign soil in Russia in a 2018 tournament that was highly-praised for its organization, treatment of fans and standard of play leading up to the win for Didier Deschamp's side over Croatia, who prevented Russia from qualifying automatically for the finals with a late goal in a group stage qualification decider in Zagreb.
France are the first national association to explicitly say Russia should not be allowed to take part in the World Cup, with a report also claiming that FIFA is facing pressure from authorities in other countries including the English FA.
FIFA are yet to comment on the weekend's developments after responding to the initial letter from Russia's three playoff rivals by pledging to provide an update on the World Cup qualifiers "soon".
"We can take decisions immediately, as soon as it’s needed," FIFA president Gianni Infantino insisted.
Following an extraordinary general meeting on Friday, UEFA ordered moved the Champions League final in May from St. Petersburg to Paris and ordered Russian clubs and the national team to play home games in its competitions at neutral venues.
UEFA is also considering whether it should end its deal with Russian gas firm Gazprom which was renewed last year until 2024, according to France24, which said that the contract is worth $45 million annually.