Talk of Russian switch to Asia ‘justified’ – football official
The sanctions imposed on Russia by European football governing body UEFA mean that discussions over a potential move to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) are “inevitable and justified,” according to leading football official Alexey Sorokin.
Russian teams currently find themselves banned from FIFA and UEFA competitions at all levels because of the conflict in Ukraine.
The men’s national team was deprived of the opportunity to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, and Russia has already been removed from the next edition of the UEFA European Championships in 2024.
Russian Football Union (RFU) president Aleksandr Dyukov confirmed last month that a potential bid to leave UEFA and join its Asian counterpart would be considered at an executive committee meeting on December 23.
According to Sorokin – who is a former RFU general director and headed the local organizing committee for the 2018 World Cup in Russia – such discussions are inevitable given the circumstances.
“We are a long-standing and full member of UEFA. We have held a lot of tournaments, there are strong connections, there is trust at all working levels. In football, we see ourselves as part of Europe,” Sorokin told TASS on Wednesday.
“But at the same time, we are faced with the inability to play either national team or club matches, which significantly affects our football. And that’s putting it mildly.
“Therefore, the discussion of some alternatives is absolutely inevitable and justified. This state of affairs, when the national team doesn’t play, cannot last long.”
Sorokin also described the chance of Russian teams returning to UEFA and FIFA competitions in the near future as “extremely small,” even at neutral venues.
The Russian men’s national team has played just three matches this year, facing Kyrgyzstan in September and Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in November.
They were due to contest a World Cup qualifying playoff semifinal against Poland in March, but their rivals refused to play the match before Russia was hit with a ban by UEFA and FIFA.
At club level, Russian teams have been banned from competitions such as the Champions League and Europa league for at least the 2022/23 season.
Russian football figures are not the only ones to be considering a potential move to Asian federations.
At an International Olympic Committee (IOC) summit in Switzerland earlier this month, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) proposed that Russian athletes could compete at events under its auspices as a potential route back to competition for them ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics.
The IOC said it would explore the proposal, with support for the step among members including the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).