FIFA has partially lifted its ban on Russia’s national teams by allowing them to compete in the men’s and women’s Under-17 World Cup.
The decision, taken by the FIFA council, follows UEFA’s move in September to also permit Russia’s under-17 teams to participate in its competitions.
Russia’s national teams and clubs have been banned from UEFA and FIFA competitions since the end of February 2022 due to the invasion of Ukraine.
But world football’s governing body said on Wednesday that Russian under-17 sides would be allowed to compete under the condition they use the name “Football Union of Russia”. Matches will take place without the Russian flag, anthem, or kit.
A FIFA statement read: “Following the decision of the UEFA Executive Committee on 26 September 2023 to once again allow the participation of Russian representative youth teams at U-17 girls and boys level, the FIFA Council approved an extension of this decision to the FIFA U-17 World Cup and FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup for which UEFA’s competitions serve as a qualification pathway, thus lifting the suspension on teams from Russia taking part in these tournaments.
“The FIFA Council reiterated its condemnation of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine and confirmed that the remaining terms of the decision made on 28 February 2022 remain in force until the end of the conflict.”
The 2023 Under-17 Men’s World Cup takes place in Indonesia between November 10 and December 2. Russia have not qualified for the tournament, having been banned from competing at the Under-17 European Championship, the competition from which the five European teams secured their qualification. FIFA has not yet confirmed whether a ‘Football Union of Russia’ side would be able to compete at this year’s tournament.
The 2024 Under-17 Women’s World Cup is hosted in the Dominican Republic next November. Russia could secure a spot at the tournament through one of three European qualification places which are determined by performance at the 2023 Under-17 Women’s European Championship in May.
Ukraine’s football association (UAF) responded to UEFA’s decision to reinstate Russia’s Under-17 sides by saying it would not play in tournaments involving Russian teams — and urged other countries to follow suit. The UAF then wrote to other European associations asking them to boycott matches against Russia’s under-17 teams, calling the partial lifting of the ban a “hazardous and terrifying trend”.
The football associations of England, Poland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway have stated they would continue not to compete against Russia.
UEFA explained its decision by stating it believes that “children should not be punished” for the conflict and that football “should never give up sending messages of peace and hope”.
UEFA has yet to provide detail on which qualification groups the Russian teams would enter.
Russia’s men’s team was not allowed to take part in the qualification play-offs for the 2022 World Cup. Russia’s football federation initially protested the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but dropped the appeal in April 2022. Poland, Sweden and Czech Republic had sent a joint letter to FIFA saying they would refuse to face Russia in the play-offs.
The women’s team was also removed from qualifying for the 2023 World Cup.
Isolated and in crisis – the war in Ukraine has damaged football at home too
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