Barely 24 hours after suggesting that Russia continue competition in the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifying competition under the name of the ‘Football Union of Russia (RFU)’, Fifa and Uefa have suspended Russia’s national and club teams from ‘participation in both Fifa and Uefa competitions until further notice’.
The measure was taken as part of an international response to Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine, which began on 24 February 2022. And it follows swiftly on Fifa’s derided offer of a compromise yesterday that would have allowed the Russia national team to compete without its flag and anthem.
Poland FA president Cezary Kulesza described that position as ‘unacceptable’ and insisted his country would have no sporting contact with Russia. Sweden and the Czech Republic had also previously stated their objection to sharing the field with Russia.
“In the situation of the war in Ukraine, we are not interested in the game of appearances,” stated Kulesza, via Twitter yesterday. “Our position remains the same: the Polish national team WILL NOT PLAY against Russia in the play-off match, regardless of the name of the Russian team. #solidarnizukraina”
If the new joint position by Fifa and Uefa holds until at least 24 March, the Russia team will forfeit their Uefa play-off fixture against Poland, with the latter outfit automatically advancing to play the winner between Sweden and the Czech Republic on 29 March for a solitary spot at the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
“Following the initial decisions adopted by the Fifa Council and the Uefa Executive Committee, which decisions envisaged the adoption of additional measures,” read a Fifa statement, “Fifa and Uefa have today decided together that all Russian teams, whether national representative teams or club teams, shall be suspended from participation in both Fifa and Uefa competitions until further notice.
“These decisions were adopted today by the Bureau of the Fifa Council and the Executive Committee of Uefa, respectively the highest decision-making bodies of both institutions on such urgent matters.
“Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine. Both presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people.”
The Bureau of the Fifa Council is chaired by Fifa president Gianni Infantino and includes Uefa president Aleksander Čeferin as well as Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa (Asia), Patrice Motsepe (Africa), Victor Montagliani (North and Central America and the Caribbean), Alejandro Dominguez (South America) and Lambert Maltock (Oceania).
In 2019, Infantino was awarded the Order of Friendship medal by Putin in the Kremlin and he has so far ignored all suggestions that he should now reject the Russian State award.
Čeferin, an attorney by profession, served in the Yugoslav People’s Army as a teenager and was subsequently a soldier for the Slovenian Territorial Defence in Slovenia’s War of Independence in 1991.
The Russia football body still has the option of appealing Fifa’s decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland.