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13 Sep, 2022 09:19

Balkan nation comments amid pressure to scrap Russia football match

Bosnia and Herzegovina are due to play a men’s football friendly match against Russia in St. Petersburg in November
Balkan nation comments amid pressure to scrap Russia football match

The football authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have said they will revisit plans to play a friendly match against Russia. The Balkan nation has faced pressure to cancel the match, with Ukraine appealing to UEFA and FIFA to intervene.

Plans for a friendly international between Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina at the Gazprom Arena in St. Petersburg on November 19 were announced by the football associations of both countries last week.

For Russia, the match would be one of three friendly games in the autumn. A meeting is already confirmed between Russia and Kyrgyzstan in Bishkek on September 24, while a game against Iran is planned for November, but with a date and location yet to be confirmed.

However, the planned visit of Bosnia and Herzegovina to St. Petersburg has drawn the most anger from some quarters, with the Ukrainian Association of Football issuing a statement appealing to UEFA and FIFA to “prevent the match from taking place.”

Ukrainian officials also claimed that Bosnian football bosses would “harm the image of their country” by going ahead with the occasion.

Responding to the pressure on Monday, the Football Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina said the upcoming UEFA Nations League matches against Montenegro and Romania later in September were the team’s priority – and after that the friendly against Russia would be discussed again.

“The information about the friendly match between the teams of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Russia has caused numerous reactions in recent days,” read a statement.  

“The president of [the Bosnian football association], Vico Zeljkovic, points out that at the moment the most important match is the one played by the national team against Montenegro in the UEFA Nations League on the 23rd of this month, followed by the one with Romania…

“As a reminder, the primary goal we set was the qualification of the national team for Euro 2024, as well as the improvement of infrastructure conditions at our stadiums. We are slowly moving towards fulfilling those goals.

“The work of the members of the Executive Committee so far has been unique and we intend to keep it that way, and at the request of [board member] Fuad Colpa, we will hold a session in October where we will discuss this match [with Russia],” it added.

Speaking to national media, Bosnian football official Colpa said he “regretted” voting in favor of the match against Russia, even though he was not pressured into doing so.

Colpa said he would push for the match to be canceled, or at least postponed until UEFA’s sanctions against Russia are lifted.

The decision by the football authorities in Sarajevo to play Russia was also questioned by two of the countries biggest football stars, Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko.

Meanwhile, UEFA has told the Russian media that friendly matches do not fall under the jurisdiction of its Executive Committee, and that the game would not contravene the organization’s current ban on Russian teams from all UEFA competitions.

FIFA said it could not yet comment in response to a request from RIA Novosti.

Managed by Valery Karpin, the Russian men’s national team have not played since their FIFA 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifying match against Croatia in Split last November.

All Russian teams were subsequently banned by FIFA and UEFA at the end of February, following the onset of the military campaign in Ukraine. 

That prevented Russia from attempting to reach the Qatar World Cup after the team were removed from their European qualifying playoff semifinal against Poland, which had been scheduled for Moscow in March.

Poland were handed a bye and went on to book their place in Qatar by beating Sweden in their qualifying playoff final.

Russian football officials have since lost an appeal against the UEFA and FIFA bans with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, but have indicated they could take the case to a higher authority in the form of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court.