UEFA boss claims Russian ban ‘breaks his heart’ but defends decision
The decision to suspend Russian teams from international competition was the “right” one but was a painful choice to make, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has claimed.
Alongside FIFA, UEFA announced last month that Russian national and club teams would be suspended from competing in tournaments run by the organizations “until further notice” as a consequence of the military campaign in Ukraine.
In an interview with Brazilian outlet Globo, UEFA chief Ceferin has argued that the step was the correct one even if Russian players suffered due to events entirely out of their control.
“To decide that Russian clubs and the national team cannot play was the right decision, but from the other point of view it breaks my heart to see that the athletes have to pay for the decision that is not theirs,” Ceferin said regarding the offensive in Ukraine.
In taking the step, UEFA and FIFA were following recommendations from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which said Russian and Belarusian athletes should not be invited to international competitions wherever possible.
The football suspension means the Russian men’s national team is set to be deprived of the chance to reach the Qatar 2022 World Cup, while the Russian women’s team will likely miss this summer’s European Championship in England.
The Russian Football Union (RFU) has launched an appeal against the FIFA and UEFA bans with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, although the football governing bodies have refused to expedite the process.
UEFA has also stripped Russia of the 2022 Champions League final, which was due to be held in St. Petersburg in May, and has terminated its sponsorship deal with Russian energy giants Gazprom.
“We canceled our contract with Gazprom, [and] many days after, many European countries are still buying gas from Gazprom, but they are speaking about football all the time. So it’s some double morality sometimes,” said Ceferin when asked about the situation.
Russian officials have criticized the sweeping sanctions placed on the country’s athletes by the likes of UEFA, calling them discriminatory and undermining the principle that sport should be kept separate from politics.